- Dr. Hj. Hunggu Tadjuddin Usup, 1940–2010:Northern Sulawesi Linguist
Haji Hunggu Tadjuddin Usup, the primary contributor to the academic literature on the Mongondow-Gorontalo languages of northern Sulawesi, died in his home town of Bolangitang, Indonesia, on the evening of July 3, 2010, at the age of 69, after a monthlong illness that robbed him of the use of his legs but never of his spirit and determination. He was born on December 23, 1940, the son of Tadjuddin Usup and Tati Pontoh, the latter a daughter of Bendji Pontoh, the former rajah of the kingdom of Bolangitang.1
In 1974, "Prof Usup" or "Pak Usup," as he was fondly known, became an assistant teacher at the Institut Keguruan Ilmu Pendidikan (IKIP) in Manado, Sulawesi Utara, at Universitas Sam Ratulangi (IKIP later being moved to Universitas Negeri Manado, located in the town of Tondano), and became a full professor there in 1980, a position he held until his passing.
He received both his BA and MA from IKIP Manado, and his PhD at IKIP Jakarta (based at the University of Indonesia) in 1986. It was at the latter that he defended his dissertation, Rekonstruksi Protobahasa Gorontalo-Mongondow, on October 11, 1986, after spending 13 months in Leiden in 1985–86, and six months in Germany in 1987. This was arguably his most important contribution to the world of linguistics, consisting of reconstructions based on data elicited from a 1,645-item wordlist for the nine languages comprising the Gorontalo-Mongondow subgroup, most of which are poorly documented, and at least one of which (Ponosakan) probably will disappear within the next decade or so, as it is currently down to five elderly speakers.
Pak Usup also worked with the Indonesian Linguistics Development Project, and during the final decades of his life, ran the Balai Bahasa ("Language Center") in Manado, which included a library consisting of virtually all of the local books produced about the languages of northern Sulawesi and beyond. Working most of the time either teaching Indonesian or promoting linguistics and the languages of northern Sulawesi, he was always happy to receive visitors who had an interest in the languages close to his heart, and he would shower with generous praise any foreigner whose grasp of Indonesian was sufficient to hold a conversation with him. He was also especially fond of recalling the time he spent overseas studying historical linguistics under Bernd Nothofer, James Sneddon, Jack Prentice, and Robert Blust, individuals whose support was so important to him that he often mentioned it in casual conversation even decades later.
Prof Usup was the type of person admired and loved by all who knew him, and disliked by none, unsurprising considering his kind, generous, energetic demeanor, and the accomplishments he made for his native language and his province of birth. Whether in [End Page 273] his home town or elsewhere in the subprovince of Bolaang Mongondow, he is widely revered both as the first local to receive a PhD, and as a scholar who helped promote the local languages of the provinces of Sulawesi Utara, Gorontalo, and Sulawesi Tengah.
Hunggu Tadjuddin Usup represented something that many places in the world can only dream of: a talented local who studied not only in the nation's capital but even in Western countries, yet never let the temptations of a high-ranking national position lure him away from his native province. To the end, he refused to be taken to a local hospital or Jakarta for treatment, finding more comfort in being at home with family than in the medicine and technology that might have helped prolong his life. He will be missed not only by colleagues and students, family and friends, but also by all others who benefited from and admired his contributions to the academic world and to the development and promotion of his native province.