Osten Dahl, Stockholm University
Linguistics was just starting to be taught as an academic subject in Sweden, and it did not exist in Gothenburg, where I was at the time. The most theoretically-sounding subject was "Sanskrit with comparative Indo-European philology", so I took some courses in that, but soon decided that Slavists had more fun, both socially and scientifically. Choosing Russian also allowed me to do my military service in a slightly more civilized way at the Army Interpreter School in Uppsala. But I also took courses at the departments of Philosophy and English, where transformational grammar was being introduced by Alvar Ellegård. In 1967-68, I spent a year at the University of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), trying to get started on a dissertation on Russian word order. At this point in time, undergraduate teaching in linguistics was being started in Gothenburg, and on my return there I attended courses given by Paul Kiparsky who had been invited as a visiting professor. In 1969, an event took place which many of us think of as the real starting-point for linguistics in Scandinavia: a summer school with Paul Kiparsky, Haj Ross, and Jim McCawley. For quite some time, many young linguists in Scandinavia became card-carrying Generative Semanticists. As for myself I had already drifted away from Slavic linguistics, and when Alvar Ellegård asked me to take over the undergraduate courses in (general) linguistics in Gothenburg, I was quite happy to do so, and have stayed in the subject ever since. My first semester coincided with a visiting professorship for Jim McCawley, so I am proud to having shared an office with this by now legendary and much regretted linguist. During the seventies, linguistics in Gothenburg was not yet a properly established subject, but we were happy to be a group of people of roughly the same age, independent of older authorities. In 1980, I decided to move back to my city of birth, Stockholm, and that is where I still am. Scientifically, I lost faith in Generative Semantics after a few years, and regarded myself mainly as a formal semanticist for some time. My present typological orientation developed gradually, being mediated by an interest in tense and aspect - a natural choice of topic for a Slavist with a leaning towards formal semantics. Looking back, I am struck by how little we (or rather I) knew about human language(s) when I started; on the other hand, it was an exciting time, because everything seemed to be possible.