AUSTIN, Texas—A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, June 2 at The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni center for Professor Carlota S. Smith of the Department of Linguistics who died Thursday, May 24, at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer.
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Smith was the Dallas TACA Centennial Professor in the Humanities and taught at The University of Texas at Austin for 38 years.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College in 1955. As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was one of the first female scholars to work with noted linguist and activist Noam Chomsky in the generative linguistics movement.
Smith earned her master’s and doctor’s degrees in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined The University of Texas at Austin faculty in 1969 and was chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1981 to 1985. She also was director of the Cognitive Science Center, an interdisciplinary center that links researchers in linguistics, philosophy, psychology and computer science.
Smith researched the syntax of the English language, language acquisition, the ways languages encode time and the syntax of French, Mandarin and Navajo. She was a member of the Navajo Language Academy and served on its board of directors. The group helps to preserve the Navajo language and provides linguistic training to members of the Navajo nation.
Smith is the author of many scholarly articles and two influential books, including "Modes of Discourse" and "The Parameter of Aspect.” She earned several faculty research awards and was named a Dean’s Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts in 1999.
"Professor Smith was an active member of the department," Richard P. Meier, chair of the Linguistics Department, said. "Throughout the spring semester, she was meeting with students and thinking about how to ensure the future of the department. Professor Smith was a model liberal arts faculty member and her absence will be felt for many years to come."
Smith is survived by her husband, John Robertson, a professor at the university’s School of Law; her two children, Alison and Joel; and grandchildren, Sylvia and Ari.
For more information, contact the Department of Linguistics at 512-471-1701.
For more information contact: Christian Clarke Casarez, director of public affairs, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-4945.