DR. WILLIAM A. SMALLEY
William Smalley helped develop Hmong [Mong] language
By The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- William A. Smalley, who used the English
alphabet to help develop a writing system for the Hmong people, who were driven
from China in the 1800s, has died. He was 74.
Smalley, a former professor at Bethel College in St. Paul,
Minn., died Tuesday at the Hospital of St. Raphael after suffering a heart
In the 1950s, Smalley was one of three men who created a
writing system for Hmong using the 26 letters in the English alphabet. It is
still the most widely used system for writing in the Hmong language, and it can
be read everywhere from Hmong newspapers to Web pages.
"I cannot value his work. It is invaluable," said
Yang Dao, assistant director of the English Language Learner Project of the St.
Paul Public Schools. "This writing system helped us to preserve our culture
and tradition and history. Now it is used by Hmong all over the world."
The Hmong people were pushed from China in the 1800s,
trekking south to the mountains of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The
Hmong lived peacefully in the forests of China for thousands of years until the
19th century, when rulers launched a campaign of persecution to extinguish the
Hmong language. Many tried to preserve it by writing it on "pa ndau,"
or quilts, which became documentation.
Smalley was born in Jerusalem on April 4, 1923. He graduated
from Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. in 1945. He received his doctorate in
anthropological linguistics from Columbia University in 1955.
He worked for the American Bible Society in many parts of
the world for eight years, starting in 1954, later moving to Thailand to serve
with the United Bible Societies.
He became a teacher at Bethel College in 1978, retiring 10
years later after winning the school's distinguished teaching award.
He moved to Connecticut to be closer to his children, and
after his retirement, had focused his writings on holistic approaches to
missions and promoting social justice.
Survivors include his wife, Jane; two sons; a daughter; and
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the
First Presbyterian Church in New Haven.