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Paula (Nichols) Menyuk

Paula Menyuk was born in 1929 in New York City, the only child of Louis and Helen (Weissman) Nichols. Her father Louis (known as Leon) was a businessman, and her mother Helen was a proud union member and worked as a seamstress. Paula grew up in a household that included her mother’s parents David Weissman and Ida (Sobelman) Weissman, as well as her two aunts Sylvia and Shirley and five uncles. On her father’s side, she was close to her uncle Abraham, his wife Celia and his two children Martin and Nicholas, who were more like brothers to her than cousins.

Paula was always a rebel when young. Attending an all-girls high school, she was cast in the role of Romeo, but decided to wear nail polish as a form of protest for having been cast in the boy’s role. Paula then attended New York University starting in 1947. Shortly thereafter, she went on a blind date with Norman Menyuk. The date was set up by her Aunt Sylvia and Norman’s sister Dorothy when the two met in Florida. First, Aunt Sylvia told Norman that she was 20 (she was only 18), and then she lent Paula a “nice dress” so she would look good. Unfortunately, Aunt Sylvia was several sizes larger than Paula and so Norman’s first impression was of a girl who was too young and too large.

However, he was immediately struck by her intelligence, her humor, her wit and, despite the dress, her beauty. They fell in love and they married March 5, 1950. Paula went on to earn a Bachelor of Science from New York University in 1951 and in 1953 she and Norman moved to the Boston area. Paula earned a M. Ed. in 1955, and a D. Ed. in 1961, both from Boston University.

She began her career as the chief language therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and was a teaching fellow at Boston University through 1960. She then moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on a developmental linguistics research team that included Noam Chomsky until 1972. She then moved to her Alma Mater, Boston University where she co-founded a program in applied linguistics and spent the rest of her career as a Professor of Education and Applied Linguistics, specializing in language development and disorders at the School of Education until her retirement in 1998. She also served as the director of her division from 1981–1990.

Paula was acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts in the field of childhood language development and the treatment of language disorders. She received many accolades in the course of her career. She has been listed as a noteworthy developmental psycholinguistics educator by Marquis Who's Who. She was a Fellow of the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (Distinguished Service award 1976, highest honors 1992). She was a Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Research in Child Development, of the Linguistic Society of America, of the International Society Study for Behavioral Development, and of the American Association of Phonetic Sciences. She also served on the Boards of the American Speech and Hearing Association as well as the March of Dimes. Paula published many articles, treatises and wrote eight books in the area of early language development and psycholinguistics. While at Boston University, she mentored many PhD students, who went on to make important contributions to the field of applied linguistics.

Paula will be remembered by those who loved her as a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. In 1955, she and Norman moved into a two-family home in Brookline, MA with their good friends, Walter and Judy Rosenblith next door. Paula lived there for the rest of her life, filling the house with love, laughter, and dancing. She shared her love, determination, and strength with her three children, Curtis Menyuk (1954), Diane Menyuk (1955), and Eric Menyuk (1959) who all grew up in Brookline.

In her lifetime, she was blessed with six grandchildren: Laura, Rachel, Mira, daughters of Curtis and his wife Claire; Miles, son of daughter Diane and her husband Michael; and Maxwell and Madison, children of her son Eric and Eric’s wife Laurie. She went on to become a great-grandmother when her granddaughter Rachel married Erik Pearson and gave birth to a son, Charlie and later a daughter Nora. In her later years, Paula lost much of her hearing and her sight. However, she always found time to play one-potato, two-potato with her grandchildren. Or sing “I love you, a bushel and a peck” from Guys and Dolls, or tell her children that she loved them, “Front and Back!” Her accomplishments were impressive, and she was a force to be reckoned with wherever she went. But she will be remembered by those who knew her well as being a source of strength and support; for advocating for those she loved; for her strong ethical values; and for being a loving person who cared for all, but did not suffer fools gladly.

Services

  • A memorial service is being planned for a later date

Memories

Paula (Nichols) Menyuk

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Dr Robert J. Ferullo

October 23, 2020

My sympathies and condolences to Paula’s family. She and I were doctoral candidates at the same time. We passed our oral exams the same morning at Boston U, receiving our degrees in 1961. Paula became a world wide respected Linguist, brilliantly published . An outstanding researcher in child language acquisition. May she Rest In Peace.

Sharon Heiman

October 12, 2020

Professor Menyuk was a wonderful teacher and mentor and a true pioneer in our field. I was very sorry to hear about her passing.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

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