in memoriam Helma van den Berg

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Tue Nov 18 08:34:25 UTC 2003

Obituary: Helma van den Berg

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of our colleague Helma van den
Berg, one of the leading Western experts on Daghestanian languages, who
passed away in Derbent (Daghestan, Russia) on 11 November 2003. Helma was only
38 years old. She suffered a heart attack while working on a dictionary of the
Dargi language with her native-speaker collaborator Ms. Omarova.

She is survived by her husband Leo.

Helma studied Slavic and Caucasian linguistics at the University of Leiden and
did her Ph.D. research on the Daghestanian language Hunzib (1995). She
taught and did further research at the University of Leiden, before joining the
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) in 2000. During her
stay here she concentrated on Dargi lexicography and dialectology, wrote a
series of articles on the comparative grammar of Daghestanian languages, and
initiated a large project on the grammar of Avar, which involved
collaboration with native-speaker linguists.

Helma's untimely death is a terrible blow not only for those who were close to
her, but also for the field of Caucasian linguistics. She had just been
awarded a prestigious grant for innovative research that would have
allowed her to continue her research at the University of Leiden for five years.

We still find it hard to understand that she should not be among us anymore.
We will miss her dearly.

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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