Friday, April 21, 2017

Obituary: Henry Honken

This obituary was originally posted on LinguistList (co-written with Bonny Sands).

It is with great sadness that we report the passing away of the linguist 
Henry J. Honken at the age of 74 on June 25, 2012 at the Indianhead 
Medical Center in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

Henry's main contributions were in the field of historical Khoisan 
linguistics. Henry was an amateur linguist, in the sense that he never 
received any linguistics degrees. However, in spite of this lack of formal 
training, he made significant contributions to the field. Henry was also a 
science fiction author and published several popular works with a 
linguistic focus. 

Henry Honken was born in Jefferson City, Mo., on April 6, 1938 to 
Edith Marsalek and Henry D. Honken. He served two years in the 
United States Army from 1961-1963 as a medical specialist at Fort 
Belvoir, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 
1966 with a major in anthropology and a minor in linguistics. Then, he 
spent two years in Japan, teaching English to Japanese students in a 
juku. He worked for many years as sales coordinator for Yasutomo and 
Company, an import-export company based in San Francisco, until his 
retirement, when he moved to Sarona, Wisconsin in 2005.

One of Henry's accomplishments was his career long documentation of 
the similarities between ǂHoã (spoken south of the Khutse game 
reserve in Botswana) and the northern Ju languages (northern 
Botswana, northern Namibia and Southern Angola) (see Honken 1977, 
1988, 2004, Heine and Honken 2010). Although the possible 
connection between ǂHoã and the northern Khoisan languages had 
been discussed briefly in the literature (see Traill 1973, 1974, Westphal 
1974), Henry was the first person to work it out systematically. In large 
part through his efforts, the new Khoisan linguistic family Kx'a has been 
widely accepted (see Heine and Honken 2010). At the time of his 
death, he had been working on the 421 page manuscript "ǂHoã as a 
Northern Khoesan Language".

In addition to his work on establishing the language family Kx'a, Henry 
did work in many other areas of Khoisan linguistics. He was putting 
together a grammar and dictionary of the extinct South African 
language ǁXegwi (a language of the !Ui family previously spoken in 
South Africa) from unpublished notes of various South African linguists. 
Of note also is his work on fused loans (Honken 2006). A perpetual 
problem in establishing historical relations amongst the Khoisan 
languages is the question of whether a shared lexical item is a 
borrowing or a cognate derived from a shared historical source. In 
Honken 2006, cases are investigated where a phrase or a complex 
word are borrowed from Khoekhoe into other Khoisan languages. 
These cases show clearly that borrowing has taken place, and also 
show the direction of the borrowing. Honken 2008 was a significant 
contribution towards the reconstruction of the Khoe (Central Khoisan) 

Henry had a very special intellect that shows through in his papers. He 
was wildly resourceful in finding interesting new data, owing in part to 
his grasp of a vast amount of primary literature (grammars, dictionaries, 
unpublished field notes). He worked on all the different Khoisan 
language families (!Ui, Taa, Kx'a, Khoe) and had a deep knowledge of 
all of them. Henry died at the zenith of his career. He had several 
important unpublished manuscripts that he was working on, many in 
collaboration with other Khoisan scholars. Although he started his 
career with the assumption common at the time that Khoisan 
constituted a single family, near the end he was part of a general 
movement toward building up Khoisan language classification from the 
bottom up, in a more careful and traditional manner (see Honken 2004, 

As a science fiction author, he published under the pseudonym Sam 
Cash. He also had an interest in popularizing the field of linguistics, 
and wrote some of his articles on Khoisan.

Chris Collins
Bonny Sands

List of Publications

As Sam Cash

Cash, Sam. 2005. Alienation. Wondrous Web Worlds, vol. 8. ed. J. Alan 
Erwine. Cedar Rapids, IA: Sam's Dot Publishing. 

Cash, Sam. 2006. Language in Burroughsland 67. Brandon, MB 
(Canada): Burroughs Bibliophiles.

Cash, Sam. 2010. Yelloween. Crossed Genres 20: Lies, July 2010. ed. 
Bart R. Leib, K. T. Holt. Somerville, MA: Crossed Genres Publications.

Popular linguistics

Honken, Henry. May 2007. I Couldn't Read You, E.T. Analog Science 
Fiction and Fact vol. 127.5, pgs. 41-53.

Honken, Henry. May 2008. Strange Croaks and Ghastly Aspirations. 
Analog Science Fiction and Fact vol. 128.5, pgs. 37-46.

Honken, Henry. March 2009. From Token to Script: The Origin of 
Cuneiform. Analog Science Fiction and Fact vol. 129.3, pgs. 24-33.

Hoken, Henry. June 2010. Der Mann, Die Frau, Das Kind. Analog 
Science Fiction and Fact vol. 130.6, pgs. 34-40.

Khoisan Linguistics

Honken, Henry. 1977. Submerged features and Proto-Khoisan. 
Khoisan Linguistic Studies, 3. ed. Anthony Traill. Communications from 
the African Studies Institute, no 6. University of the Witwatersrand. 
Johannesburg. pp. 145-169. 

Honken, Henry. 1977. Change of word order in Zu|'hõasi. Bushman 
and Hottentot Linguistic Studies. (papers of seminar held on 25 
October 1975). ed. J.W. Snyman. (A.S.I. communication, no. 2). African 
Studies Institute of University of Witwatersrand Communication 2. 
Johannesburg. University of Witwatersrand. pp. 1-10. 

Honken, H. 1979. Internal reconstruction in Zu|hòãsì. Khoisan 
Linguistic Studies, 5: 1-7. Johannesburg: Dept. of Linguistics, 
University of the Witwatersrand. 

Honken, H. 1984. Word groups in the click languages. Newsletter 
(African Language Association of Southern Africa. Khoisan Special 
Interest Group), 2: 6-8.

Honken, H. 1988. Phonetic correspondences among Khoisan 
affricates. New Perspectives on the Study of Khoisan. ed. Rainer 
Vossen. Quellen zur Khoisan-Forchung, 7. Hamburg. H. Buske. pp. 47-

Honken, Henry. 1998. Types of sound correspondence patterns in 
Khoisan languages. Language, Identity, and Conceptualization among 
the Khoisan. ed. Mathias Schladt. Quellen zur Khoisan-Forschung 15. 
Köln: Rüdiger Köppe. pp. 171-191.

Honken, H. 2006. Fused loans in Khoesan. Pula, 20(1): 75-85.

Honken, Henry. 2008. The split tones in Central Khoesan. Khoisan 
Languages and Linguistics: Proceedings of the 2nd International 
Symposium January 8-12, 2006, Riezlern/Kleinwalsertal. ed. Sonja 
Ermisch. (Quellen zur Khoisan-Forschung Band 22). Köln: Rüdiger 
Köppe. pp. 185-224.

Honken, Henry. 2010. A Khoekhoegowap dictionary. Khoisan 
Languages and Linguistics: Proceedings of the 1st International 
Symposium, January 4-8, 2003, Riezlern/Kleinwalsertal. ed. Matthias 
Brenzinger & Christa König. (Quellen zur Khoisan-Forschung, 24). 
Köln: Rüdiger Köppe. pp. 356-362.

Heine, Bernd & Henry Honken. 2010. The Kx'a family: A new Khoisan 
genealogy. Journal of Asian and African Studies (Ajia Afuriku gengo 
bunka kenkyu), 79: 5-36. (Research Institute for Languages and 
Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA), Tokyo University of Foreign 

Honken, Henry. 2010.Genetic relationships: an overview of the 
evidence. In: Rainer Vossen (ed.), The Khoesan Languages. 
(Routledge Language Family Series.) London: Routledge (in press).

Honken, Henry. 2012. Phonetics and phonology: Eastern =Hoan. In: 
Rainer Vossen (ed.), The Khoesan Languages. (Routledge Language 
Family Series.) London: Routledge (in press).

Honken, Henry. 2012. Tonology: Eastern =Hoan. In: Rainer Vossen 
(ed.), The Khoesan Languages. (Routledge Language Family Series.) 
London: Routledge (in press).

Honken, Henry. 2012. Morphology: Eastern =Hoan. In: Rainer Vossen 
(ed.), The Khoesan Languages. (Routledge Language Family Series.) 
London: Routledge (in press).

Khoisan Linguistics (unpublished, partial list)

Honken, Henry. 2009. A New Look at Khoisan. Manuscript. [446pp] 

Honken, Henry. 2010. Some Notes on the History of Khoe; a Research 
Aid. Manuscript. [242pp]

Honken, Henry. 2012. ǂHoã as a Northern Khoesan Language. 
Manuscript. [421 pp]

Collins, Chris and Henry Honken. 2012. The Plural Prefix in Kx'a, ǃUi 
and Taa. Ms., New York University.

Honken, Henry. forth. Khoisan Languages -- an Endangered World, In 
Memory of Professor Anthony Traill, 1939-2007 (3rd International 
Symposium on Khoisan Languages and Linguistics, 6-10 July 2008, 
Riezlern/Kleinwalsertal). ed. Sven Siegmund, Martina Ernszt & Alena 
Witzlack-Makarevich. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.

Honken, Henry. forth. Gender assignment rules in Ju/'hoan and !Xóõ. 
In: Rainer Vossen & Wilfrid H.G. Haacke (eds), Lone Tree - 
Scholarship in the Service of the Koon. Essays in memory of Anthony T 
Traill. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.

Sands, Bonny & Henry Honken. forth.ǂHoan Body Part Terminology in 
Comparative Perspective. Proceedings of the special session on the 
Kalahari Basin Area of the 20th International Conference on Historical 
Linguistics (ICHLXX), July 25-30, 2011, National Museum of Ethnology, 
Osaka, Japan (Workshop 18: Genealogical and Areal Linguistic 
Relations in the Kalahari Basin). ed. Robyn Loughnane & Tom 
Güldemann. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, series editor E.F.K. 
Koerner). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 

Honken, Henry. forth. Short Grammar and Dictionary of ||Xegwi. 

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