In Memoriam: Samuel Martin, Illuminated Korean and Japanese Languages

Samuel E. Martin, a professor of Far Eastern linguistics at Yale for more than 40 years, died on Nov. 28 at his home in Vancouver, Washington, after a long illness. He was 85 years old.

Martin served as director of the Korean Dictionary Project, sponsored by the University and the American Council of Learned Societies, and developed the Yale Romanization system for transliterating Korean, which is the system that continues to be preferred by most linguists. His “A Reference Grammar of Korean” was published in 1992. Among his more than 20 other books are “A Reference Grammar of Japanese” (1975) and “The Japanese Language Through Time” (1987) which are considered by many to be landmarks in the study of the grammar and history of the Japanese language. He also wrote instructional texts and dictionaries on conversational Japanese and Korean, as well as various other aspects of linguistics.

Born in Pittsburg, Kansas, on Jan. 29, 1924, Martin was raised in Emporia, Kansas. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of California-Berkeley and his Ph.D. at Yale in 1950. He joined the Yale faculty that same year. He was named a full professor in 1962, and he chaired the Department of East and South Asian Languages and the Department of Linguistics. He twice served as director of undergraduate studies in linguistics and was director of graduate studies in East Asian languages and literatures. He was an executive fellow of Timothy Dwight College. He retired from the University in 1994.

Martin also was interested in Chinese, Mongolian and Vietnamese, and in new pedagogical techniques for teaching East Asian languages.

He served on the executive committees of the Linguistic Society of America and the Association of Teachers of Japanese.

In 1994, Martin was awarded the Korean government’s Presidential Medal of Honor for Distinguished Cultural Contributions. His other honors include the Korea-USA Centennial Program Committee Award, the Japan Foundation’s Visitor’s Grant, and numerous research grants and fellowships.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Rendell Martin of Vancouver, Washington; by his son, James Martin of Atlanta, Georgia; and by his daughter, Norah Martin, her husband, Brad Pendergraft, and two step-grandchildren, Jake and Caleb Pendergraft, all of Portland, Oregon.