[Tibeto-burman-linguistics] Karl-Heinz Gruessner

Randy John LaPolla (Prof) RandyLaPolla at ntu.edu.sg
Mon Nov 10 09:07:09 UTC 2014

From: Linda Konnerth <lkonnert at uoregon.edu<mailto:lkonnert at uoregon.edu>>
Date: 10 November 2014 4:00:15 pm SGT
Subject: Karl-Heinz Gruessner

Dear All,

Karl-Heinz Grüßner suddenly passed away earlier this year, on June 14, 2014, in his home in Tübingen, Germany. Everybody who was lucky enough to know Karl-Heinz knows that he was a wonderful person, always friendly and joking around, as well as incredibly knowledgeable and curious, both always wanting to learn from others and happily sharing his vast knowledge. Karl-Heinz loved languages and had a fascination for India, but his passion above all was books and he considered himself mainly and foremost a librarian. As a young man, he took a job with the University of Heidelberg in Germany to travel around India to buy books and send them back to Heidelberg. Originally being on this librarian mission, Karl-Heinz ended up also spending some eighteen months in the Northeast in the early 1970s. He got married to his wife Kwet and learned Khasi, as well as took trips to Karbi Anglong and studied Karbi (then also known as Mikir). While he primarily considered himself a librarian and only secondarily a linguist, his PhD dissertation on Karbi grammar is a truly fantastic piece of work. Published in 1978 as a monograph under the title ‘Arleng alam - Die Sprache der Mikir’, his grammar of the phonology and morphology of Karbi didn’t receive all the appreciation and as wide an audience as it deserved because it was written in German and never translated into English. Based on data from a number of recorded texts, the inventory of grammatical markers he described in his grammar is remarkably comprehensive and well-illustrated with lots of examples. In his years of active research on Karbi, he was also working on a dictionary manuscript. This manuscript of 241 pages remains an extremely valuable resource as tones are marked in it.

When I started my own research on Karbi, I wrote to Karl-Heinz without knowing him at all. From my very first interactions with him until my last email exchange with him earlier this year, Karl-Heinz was incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about my research. He generously shared everything he had that could possibly be of help to me, and hosted me several times in his homes in Tübingen and in Shillong. In the years that I knew Karl-Heinz, he and Kwet would spend the winter months in the Northeast. There you would find him hunting for rare books in the markets in Shillong and Guwahati and elsewhere, so he could take them back to Tübingen, where he had over time built an enormous library for Northeast Indian studies.

Karl-Heinz was passionate about books, passionate about languages, and above all, he was a great person: always happy to help where he could, incredibly supportive, and simply very fun to be around as he never ran out of stories and jokes. He once told me about a friend of his in Delhi as somebody who truly enjoyed helping people with little things here and there, kind of as a hobby. The same holds for Karl-Heinz himself. His work - both in linguistics as well as a librarian - represents a lasting contribution to Northeast Indian linguistic scholarship.

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