LINGUIST List 29.4226

Tue Oct 30 2018

All: Even Hovdhaugen 1941-2018

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 29-Oct-2018
From: Åshild Næss <>
Subject: Even Hovdhaugen 1941-2018
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It is with deep grief that I share the news that Even Hovdhaugen passed away on October 16, 2018, aged 77.
Following his thesis in comparative Indo-European philology, Even’s early linguistic work focused on Turkic and Mongolic languages, and his first forays into linguistic fieldwork, an activity that would shape his life and career, took place in Turkey, Mongolia and the Soviet Union in the 1960 and 70s. He was hired as associate professor in general linguistics at the University of Oslo in 1967, and became full professor in 1974.

Even was a pioneer in the field of linguistics in Norway in so many ways. He was one of the first in Norway to pick up on Chomskyan theories and analysis, publishing a textbook on transformational-generative grammar in 1969; but he also recognised, early on, the restrictions this model placed on those interested in the full breadth of linguistic variation, and moved on to more functionally based approaches. He studied an incredibly wide range of languages from a number of different families, and he was among the first to take an interest in missionary linguistics, a field which now has its own conference and publications. He was also interested in the history of linguistics as a field, and wrote several works on the history of linguistics in the Western world and in the Scandinavian languages. He was the first editor of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics, and his research publications, like his interests, cover a wide range of topics; I will mention specifically here the Samoan Reference Grammar, coauthored with Ulrike Mosel and published in 1992, which with its level of detail, thorough argumentation and reliance on extensive spoken and written corpus data contributed to setting a new standard for descriptive grammars. But Even was also careful to ensure that his work benefited those communities that provided the data for his research, and published school grammars, text collections and dictionaries aimed at community use long before this became standard practice in the field of documentary and descriptive linguistics.

Even was instrumental in building up a strong and vibrant research and student community in linguistics at the University of Oslo. He had a seemingly endless reservoir of initiative, whether it came to securing research funds, organising seminars and conferences, or taking most of the department along on a study trip to Samoa. He had a unique ability to make his students feel seen, appreciated and taken seriously right from our initial, tentative forays into linguistics. Those of us who were his students in the mid- to late 1990s referred to him as ‘Uncle Even’, only half jokingly – we knew that he genuinely cared about each of us individually, and were well aware that this was not a gift to be taken for granted. His faith in what his students were capable of sometimes went to lengths that others might have found imprudent, as in a series of field trips undertaken with MA students to the remote and inaccessible Reef Islands, which sometimes turned out to be rather more challenging than he bargained for. But while Even was unafraid – of challenging established orthodoxies, of wandering into an unknown Melanesian village and starting negotiations to be allowed to work and live there, of discomfort and illness and shortage of food – he was anything but uncaring. He was generous above everything – with his time, his ideas, his research data, his insistence that junior scholars take first authorship on coauthored work – and much of what he did, he did not just so that his colleagues and students would do good work, but so that they would enjoy themselves while doing it.

With Even’s passing, linguistics in Norway has lost one of the most central figures of its modern history. The research community in Oceanic linguistics, the field where Even focused most of his research efforts in the last 20 years or so of his active career, has lost an innovative, resourceful and convivial colleague. And those of us who were fortunate enough to work with him, learn from him, and know him personally have lost a colleague, a mentor, a champion, an endless source of linguistic insights and irreverent anecdotes, and a dearly loved friend. We remember him with affection, profound respect, and a deep gratitude for all the ways in which he impacted on our lives.

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

Page Updated: 30-Oct-2018