Joseph H. Greenberg, the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, and a linguist who studied the origins of the world's languages, died May 7, 2001 in Stanford, California. He was 85.

Greenberg's study of both the structure of language and the similarities between different languages gained him worldwide recognition. In the first part of his career, Greenberg focused on understanding how languages are organized, doing pioneering work in the field of typology. Greenberg brought a new vision to the field, publishing books such as Language Universals with Special Reference to Feature Hierarchies. "In the 1960s, he did work that established certain universal principles of language structure that excited the entire world," Fox said. For example, Greenberg was able to give evidence that every language that contains nasalized vowels also contains non-nasalized vowels in an equal or greater number. From then on, Greenberg developed an impressive correspondence with international scholars trying to piece together the rules of language organization. Greenberg most recently labored to prove the links between what he called "Eurasiatic" languages -- claiming that most of the languages of Europe and Asia, ranging from English to Korean, had common threads.

- Taken from The Stanford Report, May 11, 2001