15.3413, All: Obituary for Siegried Kanngiesser

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LINGUIST List: Vol-15-3413. Mon Dec 06 2004. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 15.3413, All: Obituary for Siegried Kanngiesser                                                                                                                                                                       

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Date: 05-Dec-2004
From: Utz Maas < jpeterso at uni-osnabrueck.de >
Subject: In Memoriam: Siegried Kanngiesser 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 2004 10:09:05
From: Utz Maas < jpeterso at uni-osnabrueck.de >
Subject: In Memoriam: Siegried Kanngiesser 

In Memoriam: Siegfried Kanngiesser

On November 20 of this year, the Osnabruecker linguist Siegfried
Kanngiesser passed away after a long and painful illness.
Siegfried Kanngießer was born on December 29, 1940 in Kassel, Germany. He
studied from 1962 to 1969 in Marburg, Hamburg and Goettingen, focusing on
linguistics and philosophy. During this time his life-long project, a
theoretical justification of explanatory linguistics, gradually began to
take shape. His Ph.D. project at Goettingen was a first step in this
direction, which led to his dissertation in 1969 in linguistics, but with
a strong orientation towards the philosophy of science (in addition to
W.P. Schmid, the philosopher Erhardt Scheibe served as his co-advisor).
The dissertation was published in 1972 under the title "Aspekte der
synchronen und diachronen Linguistik (Aspects of Synchronic and
Diachronic Linguistics") in Tuebingen (Niemeyer).
>>From 1969 to 1974 Kanngießer was an assistant professor at the department
of linguistics at the Universitaet Goettingen, during which time he also
received time off to spend as a visiting professor at the Univeristaet
Hamburg in 1973. In 1974 he became full professor
for linguistics at the newly founded Universitaet Osnabrueck, where he
played a central role in defining the departmental structures of the
humanities (among others by serving twice as dean of the Department of
Lingusitics and Literature).
Ever since his dissertation Kanngießer continued to pursue his life-long
research project, which rested on the assumption that the dynamics of
linguistic systems is not induced (solely) by extra-linguistic factors but
rather is "anchored" in their architecture, so to speak. Linguistic
systems, he argued, can only be explicated by taking competing systems
into account which are projected by these systems themselves. Based on
this standpoint he developed a systematic critique of the basic
assumptions of the generally accepted Chomskyian view of theoretical
linguistics, offering as an alternative the essential integration of two
differing types of systems of knowledge: On the one hand structural
knowledge, which precedes (in the sense of Universal Grammar) linguistic
practice, on the other hand knowledge through experience, which results
from linguistic practice and which, in interaction with structural
knowledge, determines linguistic dynamics. Under these premisses
Kanngießer played a central role in giving the development of linguistics
in Germany a decidedly cognitive orientation. At the Universitaet
Osnabrueck he founded the program of studies "Computational linguistics
and artificial intelligence" (beginning in the winter semester 1989-90)
and was the driving force behind its institutional base, an
interdisciplinary department Institut für semantische
Informationsverarbeitung (established 1993, since renamed as the
Department of Cognitive Science).
He also played a central role in the section for cognitive linguistics of
the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), and
also co-founded in 1994 the Society for Cognitive science (as early as
1990 he was co-editor of the journal "Kognitionswissenschaft"). In
addition to this more specialized field, he also played a central role in
the professional consolidations of linguistics in Germany in general: In
1978 he was among the founding members of the German Society for
Linguistics (DGfS), occupying the office of the president in 1981, and was
also among the founding members of its section for computational
linguistics. His functions in central institutions for furthering
scientific studies were important for linguistics, both at the German
Research Council as well as the Ministry of Education, Science, Research
and Technology in the German government. He was a member of the
"Senatsausschuss" of the German Research Council from 1995 to 2000 where
he was in charge of the "Sonderforschungsbereichen".
This fit in well with his personal research interests, e.g. in a great
cooperative research project funded by the German Rearch Council (DFG) and
IBM from 1986 to 1991, where he acted as director of  a sub-project for
modelling lexical components in a linguistic knowledge system, including
its computer implemetation. Based on this research, which also found its
expression in a number of personal research projects which he advised,
from M.A. theses to Ph.D.'s and "Habilitationen", he pursued his
theoretical project further in a number of publications. Unfortunately,
due to his severe illness over the last six months, his year-long work,
which he had hoped to publish in book form, could not be completed. It
remains to be seen whether the fragments of the manuscript which he left
behind can be published posthumusly.
Siegfried Kanngießer passed away after a long, painful illness on November
20, 2004. A memorial ceremony at the Department of Linguistics and
Literature, Universitaet Osnabrueck, is planned for him in January, 2005
to pay respect both to him and his legacy. Questions regarding this
ceremony can be directed to the address given below.

Utz Maas
Utz.Maas at uni-osnabrueck.de

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