LINGUIST List 12.1056

Sat Apr 14 2001

All: Obituary: Rudolf Filipovic

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Alex Hoyt, Obituary: Rudolf Filipovic

Message 1: Obituary: Rudolf Filipovic

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 15:43:14 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Alex Hoyt <>
Subject: Obituary: Rudolf Filipovic

Dr. Rudolf Filipovic, the renowned Croatian linguist, died at the age of
84 on December 20, 2000, after a serious illness lasting less than two

With his departure we have not simply lost a retired university professor
who had left the stresses of dealing with university lectures,
examinations, and administration in order to focus quietly upon his
scientific interests, but an active leader and collaborator on several
research projects of international significance; director and lecturer in
the graduate program in linguistics at the Faculty of Philosophy in
Zagreb; and a friend and advisor to his younger colleagues, who could
reach him by telephone every day till midnight. When a scholar of that age
is respected by his younger colleagues not out of politeness, but for his
knowledge and academic experience, it is a true accomplishment. He earned
this reputation through hard and responsible work and absolute dedication
to the study of the English language, linguistics, and the organization of
research activity. For this he was equipped with a sharp mind and
excellent physical condition.

Professor Filipovic began his career as a member of the first class of
students to study English at the University of Zagrebs Faculty of
Philosophy. There he received his bachelors degree in English and
French. Immediately after WWII, he received a scholarship from the British
Council to study in Sheffield and London.

In 1945 he became a lecturer in the English Department at the University
of Zagreb. In the following years, Professor Filipovic worked together
with his former teacher, Professor Torbarina, to lay down strong
foundations for the new Department of English. 

In his 1948 doctoral dissertation, Professor Filipovic studied the
influence of English literature on nineteenth-century Croatia, a topic
which required months of hands-on research in Croatian and British

For the remainder of his life, Professor Filipovic dedicated himself
exclusively to the theoretical and practical study of the English
language. Beginning with his English grammar for high school students, he
sought to create reference materials to broaden public knowledge of this
quickly growing world language:

After the Second World War, English was fast on its way to becoming the
most important foreign language in Croatia. In this area, Professor
Filipovic was on top of things. He set to work on producing learning
materials for speakers of Croatian. He started with what was most needed,
a textbook for use in secondary schools, then a grammar of English, and
finally his English-Croatian dictionary, the first edition of which came
out in 1955. Through more than 20 subsequent editions, this particular
work made Filipovic practically a household name in Croatia. Professor
Filipovic was not only publishing texts and reference books in those
post-war years, but together Professor Torbarina, he was also building up
Zagreb Universitys budding English Department with the primary goal of
producing top-grade teachers of English as a foreign language.

At the same time, Filipovic was constantly developing his knowledge in
linguistics proper. While studying in the Phonetics Department at
University College in London, he had developed a strong interest in
phonology and phonetics. Upon his return to Zagreb, he set out to apply
his knowledge of English phonetics to help Croatian learners of
English. By 1954 he had published Engleski izgovor (English
pronunciation), a text which aided the English Departments language
instructors to produce graduates with a sensitivity towards the specifics
of English pronunciation in the years when native speakers were hard to
come by. Eventually, Filipovics practical efforts in teaching the sounds
of English to speakers of Croatian gave forth a theoretical result: The
Phonemic Analysis of English Loan-Words in Croatian (1960). With this
book, Filipovic shifted his focus to a new field of interest: contact

Over the next forty years Professor Filipovic gained an international
reputation for his work in the field of languages in contact. In this
field he published three books--Kontakti jezika u teoriji i praksi
(Language contact in theory and practice, 1970), Teorija jezika u kontaktu
(The theory of languages in contact, 1986), and Anglicizmi u hrvatskom ili
srpskom jeziku (Anglicisms in the Croatian or Serbian language, 1990)--and
countless articles. His great accomplishment in this area, however, lies
in the fact that his international project, the English Element in
European Languages, united dozens of English scholars from various
countries and has prolific results. This could not have happened were
Professor Filipovic not a man of extraordinary organizational

Through his early experiences in teaching the differences between Croatian
and English pronunciation, Filipovic was led to yet another field of
interest: contrastive linguistics. Again, his success in this field was
primarily due to his talent in organizing people. He gathered a team of
specialists, both scholars of Croatian and of English, who produced dozens
of publications focusing on the differences between English and Croatian
on all linguistic levels. This endeavor, of course, had a concrete
practical goal, to aid in the teaching of English to speakers of Croatian
and the teaching of Croatian to speakers of English.

Professor Filipovics organizational abilities were well-known to everyone
he knew, and so he was often called upon for help when some new endeavor
was started. Thus he founded or co-founded many language-related journals
in Croatia (Suvremena lingvistika, Studia Romanica et Anglica
Zagrabiensia, Strani jezici, and Filologija, to name a few). On the
international level, he served one term as president of the FIPLV and was
also president of Societas Linguistica Europea.

After becoming an associate (1973) and eventually full member (1979) of
the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (Todays Croatian Academy), he
also served as a member of the institutions administration. Upon his
retirement from Zagreb Universitys English Department, he founded the
academys Linguistic Institute and remained its active director until his

But no matter how many projects and other responsibilities he had on his
mind, Rudi Filipovic always had the time to talk about personal
matters. He was always interested in the private lives of his co-workers
and their families, regardless of differences in age or status. His
younger colleagues and students are aware of an irreplaceable void now
that "Filip" has left us. With him, if we may paraphrase Shakespeare, we
have been to a great feast of languages and have gathered a few crumbs.

Damir Kalogjera
Vlado Ivir
Alex Hoyt

Department of English
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Zagreb
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