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  • Albert J. Schütz (1936–2020)
  • William O'Grady

Albert J. Schütz, professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, died peacefully at his home in the early morning hours of August 23, 2020 at the age of eighty-four. He is survived by his sister Marian (Schütz) Mochel, her husband Virgil, and their families, as well as by Angie Schütz, the widow of his older brother Gene Schütz, and Gene's children by a previous marriage.1

Al was born on August 9, 1936 in the small town of Wyatt in northern Indiana and grew up on a farm there, the youngest of three siblings and the great-grandchild of immigrants of Swiss and German origin who arrived in the United States in the 1850s. He embraced hard work from childhood, doing his share on a family farm that included a few hundred pigs, a thousand chickens, and a hundred acres of corn. Al's childhood successes included awards from the local 4H Club for his grand champion pig and a trophy as Junior Champion in a five-acre corn contest. During his college years, he spent his summers working as a carpenter for a well-known house builder in the Wyatt area. Years later, the tables were turned when Al brought his former boss to Hawai'i to work for him on an extension to his house in Mānoa.

Al earned his bachelor's degree at Purdue University in 1958 (with a major in English and speech, and a minor in mathematics) and his PhD in linguistics from Cornell University in 1962, under the supervision of Charles Hockett, one of the giants of structural linguistics. His initial plans did not call for anything so ambitious. In an autobiographical note for his fiftieth high school reunion, he wrote "After Purdue, I went to Cornell, intending to spend a year or two getting an MA, and then come back [to Wyatt] to teach in a high school. But I was diverted, and ended up with a PhD in linguistics …"

Al's fascination with the languages of the Pacific began in 1960, when, as a graduate student at Cornell, he was asked by Hockett whether he would be interested in conducting fieldwork in Fiji, to which (by his own account) he responded "Sure. Where is it?" The challenges that awaited Al in Fiji included 300 distinct communalects spread over about 1000 villages. He ended up collecting data from 105 villages on various of the Fijian islands, administering a [End Page 250] survey that included a few hundred vocabulary items and a set of sentences designed to elicit specific grammatical features.

After ten months in Fiji, Al headed to London's School of Oriental and African Studies to continue his work under the mentorship of George B. Milner, a leading scholar of Fijian and Sāmoan. Focusing on data collected from 60 villages on the largest of the Fijian islands, Al completed his dissertation, "A Dialect Survey of Viti Levu," and prepared to return to the Pacific, this time with Hawai'i as his primary destination.

Al was appointed as an assistant professor of speech at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in 1962; he joined the newly formed Department of Linguistics a year later. With the exception of brief guest professorships at Universität Hamburg and the University of Waikato, he spent his entire career in Mānoa. As George Grace documents in his history of linguistics at the University of Hawai'i (, the department that Al joined was initially a very small program, with just two other teaching faculty members: Howard P. McKaughan and Stanley M. Tsuzaki. But it was a good fit for Al, who had fallen in love with the people, languages, and cultures of the Pacific.

As the department grew and began to refine its mission, Al's scholarship deepened and broadened. His pioneering fieldwork in Fiji quickly established his reputation as a rising scholar. In the 1970s and the 1980s, he completed three major books on Fijian: Spoken Fijian, coauthored with Rusiate...


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