Roger Green, 1932–2009: Linguistic Archaeologist

Andrew Pawley
2010 Oceanic Linguistics  
Roger Green, probably the most influential figure in the field of Oceanic prehistory over the past 50 years, died in Auckland on October 4, 2009, aged 77. 1 Although best known for his archaeological work on human settlement of the Pacific, Green also made important contributions to Oceanic historical linguistics, especially to the synthesis of linguistic evidence with that of other historical disciplines. Green's scholarly career grew into a kind of giant banyan tree, spreading in many
more » ... ns while providing open spaces and shelter for others. In the Pacific his archaeological field projects spanned Polynesia, from Mangareva, Tahiti, and Samoa to New Zealand and Hawai'i, and Melanesia, from Fiji and the Southeast Solomons to Watom, in the Bismarck Archipelago. Along the way, he nurtured scores of up-and-coming scholars, as advisor, teacher, project leader, backer in matters of grant-getting, job application referee, coauthor, critical reader of drafts, and so on. Green's linguistic contributions were of two main kinds. First, he wrote a number of substantial papers and coauthored a major book dealing with Oceanic (chiefly Polynesian) historical linguistics and what this tells us about Oceanic culture history. Of his 300 or so publications, about 15 focus on linguistic evidence, while many others treat linguistic issues to a lesser or greater degree. Second, he planned and directed multidisciplinary projects in which historical linguistic research was one major strand. In this entrepreneurial role, he played a large part in sparking off a golden age of Polynesian linguistics-the burst of descriptive and comparative research that took place in the 1960s and '70s. Roger Curtis Green was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, on March 15, 1932, but spent most of his childhood in Watertown, in upstate New York. His father, Robert, and his mother, Eleanor, had degrees in engineering and English, respectively, but in the Great Depression neither could find work in their chosen fields, and the family moved to Watertown when Robert found work there. By the age of 11, Roger had decided he wanted to become an archaeologist and work on Native American prehistory. The family took his wishes seriously. After the sudden death of Roger's father in 1947, Eleanor moved with her children to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that Roger could finish high school there and qualify for in-state tuition at the University of New Mexico, which offered a program in archaeology. After gaining a BA in Anthropology and a BSc in Geology from UNM, Roger began graduate studies at Harvard in 1955. 1. I am indebted to Janet Davidson, Valerie Green, and Piet Lincoln for comments on a draft of this memoir. Melinda Allen, Janet Davidson, and Pat Kirch kindly provided me with copies of pieces they have written about Roger Green. A lengthy account of Roger's life and career up to 1996 can be found in Davidson (1999) .
doi:10.1353/ol.0.0069 fatcat:ma4qdgzafraobdozrx6zh7lmc4