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Grave perdita nel mondo della linguistica

Cari Amici,

ho appena ricevuto la dolorosa notizia della scomparsa di Eli Fischer-Jørgensen, Presidentessa onoraria del nostro Circolo Glossematico, allieva prediletta di L. Hjelmslev e studiosa di fama internazionale.

Eli ci ha lasciato all’età di novantanove anni, proprio mentre, all’Università di Copenaghen, erano e sono in corso i preparativi per festeggiare il suo centesimo anno di vita.

Per noi tutti, che abbiamo potuto apprezzarla e onorarla anche con un numero di “Janus” ad essa dedicato, si tratta di una perdita gravissima.

Personalmente piango, oltre che la studiosa, la sua figura di donna che durante l’ultima guerra mondiale ha saputo, rischiando la propria vita, salvare quella di decine di ebrei danesi dalla persecuzione nazista.

Sicuramente faremo qualcosa per ricordare la Eli militante partigiana e medaglia d’oro al valor civile e la Eli scienziata.

Un caro saluto a tutti,

Prof. Romeo Galassi



The night between the 26th and February 27th 2010 Eli Fischer-Jørgensen, retired professor of phonetics at the University of Copenhagen, honorary doctor at Copenhagen's, Grove's, Aarhus' and Bayreuth's universities, died. Eli Fischer-Jørgensen died at ethe age of 99 in her home. With Eli Fischer-Jørgensen's death we have lost one of the most important members of the Danish structuralists from the first generation. She was a driving strength in the linguist circle’s discussions, since in 1933 she became a member. She became in 1966 Denmark's first professor of phonetics and was two years after elected to The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters as the first woman ever.

The list of the external merits is long, just as long as the lists of Eli Fischer-Jørgensen's publications. Eli Fischer-Jørgensen was an uncompromising radical and a rationalist both in her life, in her effort within science and in her view of authorities. Since the beginning of her career she was fearless participant in all discussions, regardless of who she had to discuss with or against. At the same time she was a formidable pedagogue and she is very famous for all her important researches in phonology – for example the admired book about Trends in phonological theory from 1975 (re-published in 1995), a book that has also been based on a personal knowledge of many of them, discussed scientific leaders. Her active research career, with articles and books, covered an incredible seven decades, and as late as in 2001 she wrote a great and material-saturated, totally original book about published pressure in older Danish

EFJ was born in Nakskov 12.2.1911. When she was eight years, the family moved to Fåborg. Here was for EFJ the parental home, that she always looked forward to returning to.

EFJ studied German and French at the University of Copenhagen from 1929 to 1936. The last three years she lived in Kvinderegensen, a stay that led to lifelong friendships. She was later for many years a member of Kvinderegensen's eforat, in the period 1957-74 a chairman. At the end of the occupation she was active in resistance and a leading member of a group under Frihedsrådet, who was to prepare a archive over Danish Nazis for use for the legal battle. In the later part of life she engaged in refugee work and prepared among other things educational material in Danish language.

In 1935 after having received the university's gold medal for a dissertation about sentence definitions, EFJ just got such a disagreeable taste for abstract discussions that she attacked phonetics, the theory of the speech sounds, a subject that was much more concrete. This field she cultivated concerning research with such a competence and international power of penetration that she, in a field with several strong women, eventually appeared like phonetics' grand old lady. Together with her staff members and students she worked from 1966 and forward, also by virtue of a number of grants from the outside, a chance to build up the Institute of Phonetics and give it a strong location in the international phonetic research field. A climax was the international phonetics congress in 1979 where EFJ was president. It was EFJ's lasting efforts to have made Danish phonetics well-known and appreciated internationally. Her effort like a central figure in the circle of Danish structuralists has also left its marks in essential language-theoretical articles, often tied for an explanation and criticism of Louis Hjelmslev's theories, works still reprinted in international anthologies.

The critical position on authorities, the professionally constructive way to go to the point without respect of persons, which was always characteristic of her, has marked the countless students and colleagues, she has been in touch with through her long life. For one's entire effort and not least by virtue of the unbreakable whole that, life and publication constituted, stood her like a model for Danish linguists and will be remembered as such in many, many years.

Hans Basbøll , professor
The Institute of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark

Frans Gregersen , professor
The Institute of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, the University of Copenhagen