As with many linguistics departments across the world, we have read Pieter Muysken's work, and prescribed it to our students – and we do so still. We also have had the privilege to get to know Pieter personally, firstly in 2004 as PhD-supervisor of one of our colleagues, and later (from 2011) as extraordinary professor in our department. His period as fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) was a pleasant opportunity to spend time with Pieter – both academically and socially.
Pieter was an interesting person, but also an interested one. He was naturally interested in Afrikaans and its history, as well as language contact and code-switching in South African contexts, but the history of South Africa and her diverse people, local happenings, the natural heritage of our country and less well-known attractions also captured his interest. For example, during a visit to Grahamstown, when he was invited to be a plenary speaker at the yearly linguistics conference which was held that year at Rhodes University, he looked forward to visiting the town's observatory museum – this while the majority of South African conference attendees were blissfully unaware of the existence of the museum. It appeared that the idea of a visit to this small little museum made him just as excited as the whales that he saw frolicking along the coast in Hermanus. Pieter was no pleasure seeker, but he was definitely a pleasure finder, and he had the gift of finding enjoyment in both large and small things.
During his visits to Stellenbosch, Pieter gave lectures and seminars for staff and students on language contact phenomena, but he also started a remarkable tradition: At his request, research presentation days were organised. Masters and doctoral students were given the opportunity to present their research proposals (and their studies as they stood at that point in time) to Pieter, other members of the department and each other. The students benefited richly from Pieter's deep knowledge, sharp insight and meaningful comments and suggestions. But what will remain with us as staff is Pieter's sincere interest (as one of the world's best sociolinguists) in the work of young researchers, even if their work didn't deal with language contact or language structure phenomena. This testifies to Pieter's wide field of interest, but also his humility despite his stature as an academic.
How will we remember Pieter? As an academic superstar without pretention – someone who was generous with his time, knowledge and money, who was equally comfortable conversing with undergraduate students as with rectors, who was cheerful and always laughing. Future generations of linguists in our department and elsewhere will benefit from his pioneering work, but they will not get to know Pieter the energetic people person. We mourn Pieter's passing, but we are thankful for the privilege of having had him as part of our department. For many of us, he changed how we move through our working life.