I’m very sad to report that Laura Benua has died, just over a week ago, at her home in Nyack, NY. She was just 50 years old. Laura received her PhD in Linguistics at UMass, under the direction of John McCarthy, in 1997. She held a faculty position in Linguistics at the University of Maryland for a few years, then left the field to become a teacher in NYC. A memorial page has been established here, by the funeral home where a service will be held tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, March 2).
Laura was part of the first cohort of students at UMass trained in Optimality Theory, a cohort that included John Alderete, Jill Beckman, Amalia Gnanadesikan, and Su Urbanczyk. Her dissertation, Transderivational Identity: Phonological Relations Between Words (available on ROA; also published in the Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics series in 2000), was quite probably the most-cited of a range of works that appeared around the same time on the topic of phonology-morphology interleaving; this is saying a lot, given the very good company that Laura was in: Luigi Burzio, Sharon Inkelas, René Kager, Michael Kenstowicz, and Orhan Orgun were among the other authors with (also widely-cited) works on this topic. “Output-output faithfulness” is probably the most recognizable term referring to the main types of devices used in the relevant set of proposals; this is the term that Laura used in her work for the specific devices she used.