[Lingtyp] G. Lazard (1920-2018) and H. Seiler (1920-2018)

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Tue Sep 25 08:01:38 EDT 2018

Two scholars whose work was important for typology in Europe have 
recently passed away.

*Gilbert Lazard* (1920-2018.09.06) began his career as an Iranicist but 
became interested in syntactic typology in the 1970s and published the 
landmark book "Actancy" in 1997 (in French: "L'actance", 1994). He 
continued to work on questions of general linguistics and language 
comparison for many years after retiring from the École Pratique des 
Hautes Études (Paris), and gave a plenary talk at ALT in Paris in 2007 
(at the age of 87). He inspired many French-speaking linguists over the 
decades, and his ideas were important for the development of the widely 
recognized notion of comparative concepts for typology. In 2012/2016, 
there was a lively exchange between Lazard and Givón in the journal 
"Studies in Language" ("The case for pure linguistics" vs. "Beyond 

*Hansjakob Seiler* (1920-2018.08.13) was originally an Indo-Europeanist, 
but got interested in North American languages in the mid-1950s and 
began to work seriously on universals and typology around 1970. He was 
professor at the University of Cologne between 1959 and 1986 (where I 
overlapped with him for one semester). Among his students and associates 
were Christian Lehmann, Ulrike Mosel, and Jürgen Broschart. For many 
years, he was the head of a project on universals research with external 
funding, called UNITYP (with its own Wikipedia page: 
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNITYP). Seiler's writings were not so 
influential, but, for example, his work on relative clauses in the 1960s 
and on possessive constructions in the 1980s were important for some 
subsequent researchers. Like Lazard, he was active for long after his 
retirement and published his last book in 2015.





Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
IPF 141199
Nikolaistrasse 6-10
D-04109 Leipzig

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