LINGUIST List 29.2775

Thu Jul 05 2018

All: Obituary: Urs Egli

Editor for this issue: Kenneth Steimel <>

Date: 03-Jul-2018
From: Klaus von Heusinger <>
Subject: Obituary: Urs Egli
E-mail this message to a friend

It is with great sadness that we announce the announce the death of Urs Egli, who died unexpectedly on 1 July, 2018. He was active until his sudden and unforeseen death and was able to pursue his intellectual, social and family activities to their fullest.

In Urs Egli, linguistics in Constance and Germany are losing not only an extraordinary academic personality, but also a person with an astonishing 20th century intellectual biography. He was born near Bern in 1941. From 1960 to 1967 he studied General and Comparative Linguistics and Ancient Greek at the University of Bern, interrupted by one semester at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1964 he also studied mathematical logic at the University of Neuchâtel and spent the academic year 1967/68 at the University of Cologne at the Institute for Comparative Linguistics under Hansjakob Seiler. For health reasons, he could not accept a scholarship to MIT to work with Noam Chomsky that same year. In 1967 Urs Egli passed the Bernese diploma for highschool teaching (Greek and Latin) and in the same year he received his doctorate under the classical philologist Willy Theiler with his dissertation ''Zur Stoischen Dialektik''. In this interdisciplinary work he was able to reconstruct parts of Stoic language theory by combining the latest linguistic methods, mathematical logic and detailed philological work. This lifelong research focus later led to a project on Stoic logic and semantics which Karlheinz Hülser was able to collect and publish as ''Die Fragmente zur Dialektik der Stoiker'' in four volumes.

During his doctoral studies, Urs Egli studied Greek, Latin and Indo-European Studies as well as transformation grammar. In Cologne, he familiarized himself with the latest developments in formal semantics (Montague) and began to establish a second research focus in the field of formal semantics. In 1973 he achieved habilitation under the general linguist Georges Redard with a thesis entitled ''Integration of Semantics into Grammar'' at the University of Bern. In 1975 he was appointed Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Constance, founded in 1966, where he was active in research, teaching and academic administration until his retirement in 2006. He led two research projects in the Collaborative Research Centre 99 ''Formal Linguistics'' and further developed his analyses of question semantics and anaphoras, thus making a significant contribution to the intellectually so vibrant atmosphere of Constance linguistics. In his research project ''(In)definitheit'' in the beginning of the 1990s he introduced the Epsilon operator into the semantic discussion, which later became very popular as 'choice function'. At the end of the 1990s, he led a project on ''diachronic semantics'', a topic that has also shown extremely high research dynamics in recent years. Together with his wife Renata, he presented an overview of structuralist, generative and semantic theories in the monograph ''Sprachsysteme - Logische und historische Grundlagen der erweiterten Phrasenstrukturgrammatik''. Many of his writings emerged from his courses, which were as committed as they were didactically convincing. Until his retirement, he was able to convey his enthusiasm and interest in linguistics to many young people.

Even after retiring, he continued to deal with the intellectual challenges of Greek philology, stoic logic and modern semantics. In addition, he supported his wife intensively in the planning and implementation of a philosophical café - in keeping with the Stoa's cosmopolitan ethics: never obtrusive but enlightened, unceasing and deeply didactic.

On 1 July, 2018, Urs Egli said a quiet unannounced farewell. Together with his family, we mourn an extraordinary and highly esteemed researcher, committed teacher and colleague.

The memorial service will take place on Thursday, 12 July 2018, at 2 p.m. at the Evangelische Kirche Kreuzlingen, Kirchstrasse 19, 8280 Kreuzlingen, Switzerland

Address for condolences: Renata Egli, Eichhornstr. 2b, 8280 Kreuzlingen, Switzerland

A more detailed description of Urs Egli's academic background and development can be found on the homepage of Kai von Fintel: (in German: ‚Wie man in Europa sowohl Altphilologe als auch Semantiker werden konnte’ by Urs Egli 2011) (summary in English)

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Page Updated: 05-Jul-2018