In Memoriam: Irit Meir

In Memory of Irit Meir, who is always with us

Irit Meir was a unique person. To us, she was unique in her perspective on the world, in her perspective on and her love for language. Her interest in Sign Language stemmed from her curiosity about what drives a language, what makes it evolve, what makes it into a system; she was interested in language as a system of signs, not only of regularities. A system of signed signs, not only of the spoken (or written) word.
Irit was not only a theoretical linguist, she was a doer, an academic and social activist. To her, bringing knowledge to the community and integrating knowledge into everyday life was always a main goal. She was involved in various projects, from constructing a dictionary for Israeli Sign Language to consulting different educational projects. Bringing the academic community together with the Sign Language community and the various circles around it (educational, medical, social) was one of her clear goals when we first set out to plan the conference on Sign Language Acquisition and Assessment.

Irit was also an explorer – she set out to the world to investigate both young and developing Sign Languages (such as the Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language or the Israeli Sign Language) as well as languages that are disappearing (such as the Algerian Jewish Sign Language). She was just like any other field linguist who would travel to the jungles to learn about all those languages that we still do not know, have not documented, do not understand.

Irit was our friend and colleague. She was part of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders since its very beginning. She was the motivation behind our MA studies in Sign Language Linguistics. She was our "house linguist", the person with whom we could all consult about any topic relating to language – from the various theories, both mainstream and new approaches, to the very specific issues that come up when you set your mind to analyzing linguistic structure and function. Her knowledge extended well beyond Sign Language – Irit was first and foremost a Semitic linguist, who investigated various issues in Hebrew and also Arabic. She was knowledgeable, she was curious, and she was willing to share her point of view and knowledge generously, without reserve, with her colleagues and students alike. She is sorely missed.
Rama Novogrodsky and Bracha Nir