Yamuna Kachru

Yamuna Kachru

URBANA – Professor Yamuna Kachru passed away in Urbana on April 19, 2013, after a brief illness. She was 80 years old. She was a Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Professor Yamuna Kachru was a pioneering linguist. She wrote the first grammar of Hindi, the official language of India (applying Noam Chomsky's generative model), and was widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on the grammar of Hindi.

She was also well-known for her work in Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis, especially on how the English language has been enriched by the cultural conventions of people from around the world who use it as a second language.

She wrote several books, numerous journal articles and book chapters on these topics, as well as on Hindi sociolinguistics and literature, multilingualism in India, Indian English, World Englishes, and second language acquisition and teaching.

She also edited many books and special issues of journals. Among her most important books are "An Introduction to Hindi Syntax" (1967), "Aspects of Hindi Grammar" (1980), "Intermediate Hindi" (with Rajeshwari Pandharipande, 1983), "Hindi" (a grammar, 2006), "World Englishes in Asian Contexts" (with Cecil Nelson, 2006), "Handbook of World Englishes" (edited with Braj Kachru and Cecil Nelson, 2007), "Cultures, Contexts, and World Englishes" (co-authored with Larry Smith, 2008), and "Language in South Asia" (edited with Braj Kachru and S.N. Sridhar, 2008).

Professor Kachru was a leader of the profession in several roles: as organizer and presenter at conferences, editor of reference books and special issues of journals, contributor to encyclopedias, as an Associate of the East West Center, Honolulu, editor of the journal World Englishes, and as co-founder of the International Association of World Englishes, of which she was elected Vice-President/President-Elect this year.

She and her husband and colleague, Braj B. Kachru, working hand in hand as a famous team, made the University of Illinois the world's leading center for Indian linguistics and the burgeoning field of World Englishes, of which they were the principal architects.

Professor Yamuna Kachru was born in Purulia, West Bengal, India, and grew up in Dhanbad, Bihar (now Jharkhand). She studied linguistics at Deccan College, Poona, India, and the University of London, and taught Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

She was invited to join the University of Illinois in 1966, where she served for nearly 40 years as Professor of Linguistics.

She also served as Director of the Division of English as an International Language. She directed over 45 Ph.D. students who went on to become well-known scholars around the world.

Professor Yamuna Kachru received many awards and fellowships in recognition of her work. Among them was the Presidential Award for her contributions to Hindi language studies conferred by the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in 2006.

Professor Kachru combined the finest values of India's intellectual and cultural traditions with those of the West and enriched both. Yamunaji, as she was affectionately known (with the Hindi term for respect), was admired for her meticulous scholarship, indefatigable hard work, total dedication to her profession, family, and friends, and mentorship of students and colleagues.

Her positive attitude, ever-helpful nature, grace under pressure, dignity, and poise made her a role model for everyone who came in contact with her. She fought and was cleared of cancer.

She played a key role in establishing the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Champaign-Urbana, of which she was a member of the Board of Trustees.

A memorial meeting is being planned.

Yamuna Kachru leaves behind her husband and collaborator Braj B. Kachru of Urbana; a daughter, Amita Kachru, a physician in San Francisco; a son, Shamit Kachru, a professor of Physics at Stanford University; and granddaughters, Sasha and Ila.