obituary and memorial events for Anna

Jean-Christophe Verstraete jean-christophe.verstraete at ARTS.KULEUVEN.BE
Sat Aug 27 18:48:44 UTC 2011

Dear ALT members,

We would like to share with you another obituary for Anna Siewierska, 
written by Barry Blake, Willem Hollmann, Nigel Vicent and Anne Wichmann.

You may also have heard about two memorial events for Anna. On September 
8th, there will be a commemoration in the opening session of the SLE 
conference (<>). Later on Anna's colleagues at 
Lancaster University are planning a memorial event, in which ALT will 
also participate. We will keep you informed about the date.


It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Anna 
Siewierska, who died in a tragic road accident in Vietnam on 6 August 2011.

Her career in linguistics spanned three decades, with many of us still 
referring to her very first book on the passive in the languages of the 
world: The Passive: A Contrastive Linguistic Analysis (1984). This 
monograph is distinguished in at least two respects. First, it was the 
published version of her Monash University MA, a remarkable outcome for 
a dissertation at this level and testifying to the great promise she 
already held very early in her career. Second, in it she compared many 
different theories. This comparative theoretical angle remained a 
considerable merit of her research, setting it apart from that of many 
of her peers. Anna’s preferences always lay with functionally oriented 
theories, for some time especially the version of Functional Grammar 
developed by Simon Dik and colleagues in Amsterdam but more recently 
also construction-based approaches. However, she included formal 
approaches in her scope as well.

She was of course most well known for her work in linguistic typology, 
where in addition to her cross-theoretical perspective she also stood 
out in terms of the sheer breadth of topics she covered: voice, valence, 
word order, agreement, person, and more recently dialect grammar. In the 
1990s she coordinated the constituent order group of the European 
Science Foundation project EUROTYP, which culminated in the very 
substantial volume on this topic: Constituent Order in the Languages of 
Europe (1997). She did not only carry out her research alone, but also 
with others, especially her husband Dik Bakker. Since 2009 she had been 
involved in a large collaborative project on Referential Hierarchies in 
Morphosyntax, funded by the ESF and AHRC.

Anna was an active member of various professional organisations, 
including the Philological Society and the Linguistics Association of 
Great Britain. She had served as President of the Societas Linguistica 
Europaea (2002) and, at the time of her death, was the President of the 
Association of Linguistic Typology. In 2003 she was elected a member of 
the Academia Europaea.

Anna was a truly cosmopolitan scholar, working on the full variety of 
the world’s languages, teaching and lecturing around the world and 
holding positions in several different countries.  She was a lecturer at 
the University of Gdansk (1980-1990), senior researcher and lecturer at 
the University of Amsterdam (1988-1992), and before that, she also 
taught at Monash University (1982-1984), where she obtained her PhD 
(1985). Since 1994 she had been Professor of Linguistics and Human 
Communications at Lancaster University. In addition to this, she was a 
frequent Visiting Professor at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary 
Anthropology in Leipzig.

In addition to being an excellent researcher, Anna was an outstanding 
colleague and a wonderful person. One could always knock on her door for 
some insightful work related advice, a friendly chat, and a joke about 
something decidedly unlinguistic, such as the latest episode of ‘Mad 
Men’. Many of us will remember her as being extremely hard working, but 
as having many interests outside linguistics too, including hiking in 
the Lake District, visiting the theatre, travelling, and reading. She 
was a great host, who would always leave one wondering where she found 
the energy to entertain her guests in the way only she could yet be so 
incredibly productive professionally at the same time.

Our deepest feelings of sympathy naturally go out to her family first 
and foremost, including her husband Dik Bakker -- but everyone who has 
had the pleasure of working with and getting to know her will greatly 
miss her exceptional expertise, energy, and warmth of character.

Barry Blake (La Trobe University)
Willem Hollmann (Lancaster University)
Nigel Vincent (University of Manchester)
Anne Wichmann (University of Central Lancashire)

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