LINGUIST List 12.1056

Sat Apr 14 2001

All: Obituary: Rudolf Filipovic

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  • 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 months.

    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 libraries.

    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 linguistics.

    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 capabilities.

    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 death.

    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