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CSUF Professor Alan Kaye Dies of Cancer
Allan Kaye
'Indiana Jones of Linguistics' stricken while researching abroad.

June 5, 2007 :: No. 226

Alan S. Kaye, Cal State Fullerton professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics, died May 31. He was 63.

Kaye was diagnosed with bone cancer on May 1 in the United Arab Emirates, where he had been on a research leave. His 28-year-old son, Jeremy, traveled to that country, where Kaye was undergoing radiation therapy, and brought him back home to Fullerton on May 22. He told his son that the 30-hour journey to California would be the “most important of his life.”

“His cancer was the most aggressive kind that one can have, and it had already metastasized, affecting many of his major organs,” Jeremy Kaye said. “We did, however, have some hope during his final days. My father had begun chemotherapy treatment, and he was able to regain some of his mobility. His doctor called him a fighter to the last. But, the chemotherapy left him open to infection, and he got pneumonia, which proved too much for his compromised immune system.”

He said his father “absolutely loved Fullerton and loved the years he spent at CSUF. He met innumerable faculty and students who meant more to him than I can say.”

Thomas P. Klammer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, called Kaye “irreplaceable, and his knowledge of the Semitic languages was legendary.

“I worked with Alan for more than 35 years,” Klammer said. “We both started at CSUF in the fall of 1971. We missed him while he was on leave, though he would occasionally send e-mail and pictures. Of course, we could not anticipate that his return would not be to his beloved research and teaching, but only to a valiant fight for his life.”

Cal State Fullerton “will not be the same without Alan, and the field of linguistics will not replace him,” Klammer added. “Alan studied many aspects of linguistics and many different languages, but his real specialty was the peripheral dialects of Arabic — Arabic as spoken in remote locations, far from the capitals of learning and sophistication in the Arab-speaking world. He was a master at interviewing informants whose speech most standard Arabic speakers would not be able to understand. His field trips included numerous adventures and close brushes with danger. His stories of his field research in out-of-the-way locations in Africa and the Middle East conveyed to his admiring students an impression of Alan as something of an Indiana Jones of linguistics.”

Kaye, who was born in Los Angeles on March 2, 1944, earned his bachelor’s degree in Semitic linguistics in 1965 from UCLA and his master’s degree (1968) and Ph.D. (1971) in linguistics from UC Berkeley. He spoke many languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.

He taught most of the graduate and undergraduate language and linguistics courses that CSUF offers, and he was especially proud of having developed the courses “Language and Linguistics” and “Introduction to Linguistic Phonetics and Phonology,” said Joseph Sawicki, chair of the Department of English, Comparative Literature and Linguistics.

“Alan was one of our most active researchers, with an international reputation in language and linguistics, having published nearly 20 books, more than 100 articles and over 450 notes, squibs and book reviews,” Sawicki said. “His primary research interests focused on Near Eastern, Asian and African languages, and he made frequent trips to areas of the world where he did field work in these languages.”

Kaye delivered numerous lectures and conducted research in scores of countries worldwide. Most recently, he lectured at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia and the University of Goteborg in Sweden. He also served as an honorary research fellow at La Trobe University’s Institute of Advanced Study in Australia, and he was on a two-year leave, teaching and lecturing at the United Arab Emirates University.

He received many grants, including two Fulbright Scholar awards, and he was a member of the editorial boards of three monograph series and 12 journals, including English Today, Languages of the World, Multilingua and the Arab Journal of Humanities. He also served as editor for the online edition of English Today.

In addition to serving as chair of the Linguistics Department for eight years, Kaye also was a member of many departmental and university committees, including the Library Committee and ad hoc committees to develop a master’s degree in religious studies, the bachelor’s degree in mathematics and the minor in Jewish studies.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences recognized his accomplishments by awarding him the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1998.

His ex-wife and mother of his children, Susan Kaye, said they remained good friends, and she keeps fond memories of their many travels together. She gave birth to Jeremy in Sri Lanka, while Kaye was a Fulbright Scholar there.

Besides his son, Kaye also is survived by his daughter, Jennifer, 31, and his sister, Carol Moshos. Condolences may be sent to Kaye’s home, 2220 E. Chapman Ave., #42, Fullerton, Calif., 92831 or to Jeremy Kaye via email at

Charitable donations in Alan Kaye’s name can be made to the American Cancer Society.

A memorial service will be held on campus in September.

Media Contact: Mimi Ko Cruz, Public Affairs, 657-278-7586 or

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Alan S. Kaye
Alan S. Kaye

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