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Obituary: Roger Finch

In Memoriam
Roger Finch
(April 17, 1937 – October 4, 2019)

Let us all go cultivate our gardens.
(Voltaire, Candide)

Roger Finch was born on April 17, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, son of Willard and Phyllis (Creek) Finch, and died on October 4, 2019, of cardiac arrest.

Roger Finch graduated from George Washington University with a B.A. majoring in music and Harvard University with a PhD in linguistics. In 1977, after graduating from Harvard he was offered a position in Tokyo, Japan, writing textbooks for Japanese learning English. He started teaching English at Waseda University. and later moved to Sophia University in Tokyo where he taught—besides English—Modern American Poetry and phonology as well as historical and comparative linguistics. Through an introduction by Professor Paul Takei, he accepted a tenured position at Surugadai University near Tokyo in 1990 when he had already been pondering a possible return to the United States, intending to settle at his house in Maine which he had bought a long time ago.

The position at Surugadai University proved to be most fortunate; as he once wrote, he was impressed by the modern, new, attractive and well-equipped premises of the University (which had only been established three years earlier, in 1987). Given his profound love for nature, the trees and the hilly surroundings of the university campus certainly were hugely attractive to him, as he confessed once when resigning from his post. Yet, it was most important to him that he quickly made friends with colleagues, staff members and students alike, developing lasting friendships. Of his students, he spoke in terms of admiration, affectionately praising their polite manners, desire to learn and profound attention. Prior to his return to the United States in 2008, he honoured these bonds developed over two decades by encouraging his friends to visit him in Maine.

After retirement, Roger Finch dedicated his life to the things he loved most: linguistic research, writing poetry, and music composition. He once estimated that the share of his scholarly work would decrease in favour of poetry and music, but nonetheless he continued to contribute substantial, well-researched papers, combining his favourite interests when writing. His papers about subjects as diverse as folk bird taxonomies in Japan (“日本の鳥類の民間分類”, [Nihon no chôrui no minkan bunrui], Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 36 (2008), pp. 49–80 (this is the Japanese version of a paper presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the PIAC in Berlin, 2006), or „Christianity among the Cumans“ Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 35 (2008), pp. 75–96, or „The Reconstruction of Proto-Altaic *p-“, Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 28 (2004), pp. 69–99, or „Musical Instruments in Uigur Literature and Art“ Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 24 (2002), pp. 23–53, to mention just a few papers he published during his tenure at Surugadai University, demonstrate Roger Finch’s encyclopaedic scholarship. It is difficult to say whether his attention to minutiae, combined with a broad scope of diverse interests, as demonstrated in his scholarly work was an inborn personal trait or perhaps was acquired in the scholarly environment in Japan, but one way or the other, his personal mindset and Japan‘s scholarly values complemented each other in a most auspicious and beneficial way.

Over nearly two decades Roger Finch has been a faithful PIAC member, participating at least eight times since 1998, yet the earliest connection can be traced to 1989 when Denis Sinor announced some of Roger Finch‘s recent publications in the PIAC Newsletter. His contribution to the 56th Annual Meeting, Kocaeli 2013, waits to be published.

Roger Finch was also praised for his knowledge and command of Turkish. Let him describe, in his own translation of a prophetical masterpiece of Turkish poetry by Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1884-1958), the last voyage he embarked on:

Silent ship

If there comes a time to raise anchor from time, one day more,
A ship will set out from this harbor toward an unknown shore.
It makes way silently, as though it held no living soul;
At that unrocking parting no hand waves as the lines unroll.

Roger Finch leaves his spouse, Louis Hargan, an equally faithfully PIAC member, and his sisters, to whom I offer my deepest condolences.

Oliver Corff, October 12, 2019.

(Note: Edited the same day: two forgotten words added, and poem properly attributed to Yahya Kemal Beyatli. OC, 2019-10-12, 21:47 CEST/CEDT)

Past Meetings: 56th Annual Meeting Izmit/Kocaeli, 2013: Programme and List of Participants

Dear Reader,

Most of the information of the 56th Annual Meeting, held 2013 at Kocaeli University, is now online. This includes the original programme and the list of participants, both of which can be found at the page dedicated to the 56th Meeting Izmit, 2013.

Oliver Corff, September 04th, 2019.

Introduction to Altaic Studies and the PIAC

Dear Reader,

12 years ago, in May 2007, Barbara Kellner- Heinkele wrote an introduction to Altaic Studies and the PIAC which was then now and then republished as introductory text at the occasion of at least two Annual Meetings, the 51st Annual Meeting 2008 in Bucharest and the 55th Annual Meeting 2012 in Cluj-Napoca.

The text, “New Developments in International Altaic Studies“, slightly revised, is now presented again and can be reached via the “About” button of the main navigation menu.

Oliver Corff, September 04, 2019.

Internationale Altaisten-Konferenz in Mainz (1959)

Dear Reader,

In the days June 23rd to 26th 1959, the then recently founded PIAC had convened its second Annual Meeting, steered by Secretary General Prof. Walther Heissig. Media covered the event with broadcasts and feuilleton contributions. One journalist, Erik Emig, wrote a piece on the aforementioned meeting. His article and letter to Prof. Heissig are reproduced here.

Oliver Corff, September 3rd, 2019.

Letters regarding the early years of the PIAC

Dear Reader,

One of the founding fathers of the PIAC, Prof. Walther Heissig (1913–2015), was not only a pioneer of Central Asian Studies in Germany, an outstanding scholar of Mongolian studies, and a prolific writer. He also maintained close and personal ties with many of the eminent Central Asian scholars of his time, among them György Kara, Herbert Franke and György Hazai, to name just a few.

As first Secretary General of the PIAC,  he also entertained communications, many of them with Denis Sinor. The letters also reflect the administrative burdens of organizing PIAC meetings, especially given the fact that travel (and obtaining permission to participate in conferences abroad) was by far not as convenient as today.

From Prof. Heissig’s estate, more than 70 letters and other documents relating to the early years of the PIAC, hitherto unpublished, are edited by H. Walravens as:

Briefwechsel mit György Kara, Herbert Franke, György Hazai und Alice Sárközi sowie aus den Anfängen der Altaistenkonferenz (PIAC) Katalog mongolischer Blockdrucke in London. Paperback, 220 pages. ISBN-13: 9783739218830. Publisher: Books on Demand, June 4th, 2019.

Oliver Corff, September 2nd, 2019.

New Books Presented by PIAC Members, 2

Dear Reader,

The other day, an incomplete list of books presented to the 62nd Annual Meeting of the PIAC was published here, and four titles were missing from that list which are presented here:

  • Li, Yong-Sŏng. Türk Dillerinde Akrabalık Adları. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2019. isbn: 978-975-17-4223-0.
  • Tekin, Talat. Altayistik. Makaleler 1. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2013. isbn: 978-975-16-2554-0.
  • Аникеева, Т. А. Предания Коркута. Огузкий героческий эпос как источник по истории тюркских народов Центральной Азии IX–XI вв. Москва: Наука — восточная литература, 2018. isbn: 978-56041860-3-9.
  • Зайцев, И. В., and А. В. Шумкин, eds. Muẖtaṣar tariẖ — История и родословная Черкесов. Издание рукописи тюркского исторического сочинения XVIII в. Москва: Издательство восточной литературы, 2019. isbn: 978-56041860-3-9.

Oliver Corff, September 1st, 2019.

New books presented by PIAC members

Dear Reader,

during the opening ceremony of the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference, several members presented their recent books:

  • Campi, Alicia. Mongolia’s Foreign Policy. Navigating a Changing World. Boulder London: Lynne Rienner, 2019. isbn: 9781626377820.
  • Clauson, Sir Gerard. Türkçe-Moğolca çalişmaları. Translated by Fatma Kömürcü. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2019. isbn: 978-975-16-3258-6.
  • Ersoy, Feyzi. Çuvaş Türkçesi Grameri. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2017. isbn: 978-975-16-3349-1.
  • Şçerbak, Aleksandr. Eski dönem Türk-Moğol dil ilişkileri. 8.–14. Yüzyıllar. Translated by Rysbek Alimov. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2019. isbn: 978-975-17-4209-4.
  • Terbish, Baasanjav. Türkiye Türkçesi ve Çağdaş Moğolcada Çatı. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2019. isbn: 978-975-17-4224-7.
  • Turan, Fatma Ahsen, and Meral Ozan, eds. Türk Mitolojisine giriş. 4. baskı. Ankara: Gazi kitabevi, 2018. isbn: 978-605-344-769-6.
  • Функ, Д. А., ed. Шорский героческий эпос. Шорский эпос в самозаписях сказителя-кайчи В. Е. Таннагашева. Vol. 5, bk. 1. Издательство Томского университета, 2018. isbn: 978-5-7511-2547-9.
  • Хөвсгөл, С. Утга туурвилын ертөнцөөр… Судлал, шүүмж. Улаанваатар, 2019. isbn: 978-99978-66-01-1.

Oliver Corff, August 25th, 2019.