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Remembering Professor Emeritus Jon Dayley

Boise State Professor Emeritus Dr. Jon P. Dayley

Professor Emeritus Jon P. Dayley died in March of 2023, the Department of Linguistics announced.

Dayley earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Idaho State University. He also earned a master’s degree, a Certificate of Philosophy and a doctorate in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Department of English in 1982 and retired in May 2011.

A prolific writer and researcher, Dayley was trained in field linguistics, with a specialty in Indigenous languages of the Americas (especially Uto-Aztecan and Mayan) and conducted extensive fieldwork throughout his career in Belize, Guatemala, Thailand and the western United States. He authored or co-authored 10 books, countless articles and language and culture handbooks, and received research grants from the Idaho State Board of Education, the Sven and Astrid Liljeblad Endowment Fund, and the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, as a student of the pre-eminent linguist, Mary Haas. He received the Distinguished Research Award for the College of Arts and Sciences in 1989 and the Boise State University Distinguished Faculty Member award in 1990 and 1994.

In his 29 years at Boise State, Dayley taught a variety of courses including those in English composition, as well as applied and theoretical linguistics. For almost two decades he and his colleague, Mary Ellen Ryder, delivered the core required linguistics courses for several majors as well as the upper-division courses for their own linguistics majors. Together, they advocated for students in the linguistics emphasis and set the foundation for the current Department of Linguistics. As a teacher, he was keenly aware of his students’ strengths and personalities, and he remembered them for years after they graduated. He held his students to high standards and supported them in meeting those standards. His departmental colleagues will remember not only his scholarly accomplishments and outstanding students, but his dry wit, his quiet presence, funny stories from the field and his sensible fashion.

In Spring 2011, his last semester at Boise State, Dayley taught the linguistics capstone course in field methods, introducing his love for field linguistics to a new generation of linguists. That semester, the class documented Somali-Chizigula, a language spoken by Somali Bantu members of the Boise community who arrived as refugees, working with Mwaliko Mberwa as the language expert. After the course was completed, members of the Somali Bantu Zigula Association requested that a bilingual Somali-Chizigula/English dictionary be completed. Dayley collaborated with Mberwa over the past twelve years, and the two recently completed the 15,973 entry dictionary, available online through the Webonary portal.

At the request of community members, the department plans to print the dictionary and has created a foundation account to support the cost of editing and printing it for distribution to the Somali-Chizigula speaking community. You can contribute to this fund in Dayley’s memory on the linguistics website.