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Dorothy Huntington, professor emeritus of linguistics, dies

STANFORD -- Dorothy Huntington, 73, professor emerita of linguistics who specialized in studying the speech of deaf people, died of lymphoma Monday, Oct. 25, in Stanford University Hospital.

Huntington was a member of the Stanford faculty for 37 years, and served as chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1985 to 1988.

During that time, she also directed the department's Phonetics Laboratory, which she had been instrumental in designing.

According to her colleague Elizabeth Traugott, professor of English and linguistics, the prime focus of Huntington's research was the cochlear implant, a device to help severely hearing- impaired persons to hear.

Huntington and Charles Ferguson, professor emeritus of linguistics, were co-principal investigators on a project, funded by the National Science Foundation, looking at how children acquire speech. Huntington's focus was on hearing-impaired children.

A native of Boulder, Colo., Huntington earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in English from the University of Colorado. She went on to earn a master's degree in speech pathology and a doctorate in experimental phonetics and speech science at the University of Illinois.

Huntington joined the Stanford faculty in 1952 as an instructor in what was then the Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology in the Department of Speech and Drama.

She became an assistant professor in 1955 and was promoted to associate professor in 1961. She moved to the medical school in 1958, when the Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology became part of the Department of Allied Medical Sciences.

In 1970, the program, now called Hearing and Speech Sciences, moved within the medical school, becoming part of the Division of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery.

From 1964 to 1974, Huntington was a member of the Committee on Linguistics, an interdisciplinary group of faculty members from a number of departments, all of whom had interests in linguistics.

When linguistics attained departmental status in 1974, Huntington became an affiliate faculty member, and later, associate professor by courtesy. In the mid-1980s, the medical school closed its hearing and speech sciences program, and in 1986, Huntington was appointed professor of linguistics.

In addition to her research, Huntington was highly regarded as a teacher, Traugott said. Although she taught undergraduate courses, her main work was with graduate students. She trained students to use labs, interpret data and, above all, said Traugott, to design careful, well-thought-out research projects.

One phonetician, Traugott related, said that Huntington was known nationally for developing ingenious techniques for teaching anatomical and physiological factors in speech production. This was in the era before computer modeling, which has made such instruction much easier, Traugott said.

Professor Eve Clark, current chair of linguistics, said of Huntington: "What always struck me was her concern for high standards and unwillingness to let anything sloppy get by. As chair, she was pleasantly even-handed, unwilling to tolerate nonsense, and level-headed."

Huntington was a great lover of the outdoors, Traugott said, and always kept a home in Colorado.

Traugott recalled a small incident which, she said, typified both Huntington's love of nature and her nurturing qualities. When Huntington's campus residence was torn down to make room for the Rains graduate housing, she transplanted a kumquat tree she was very fond of to her new campus home. And despite the difficulties, she managed to nurse the tree back to healthy life, Traugott said.

Huntington is survived by her sister, Ruth Huntington Williams of Lyons, Colo., two nephews and a niece. At Huntington's request, there will be no services.


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