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An Austronesian’s Adventures in Altertumswissenschaft and Indogermanistik

07 December 2004

In memoriam Helmut Rix

photo of Helmut Rix (from _INDOGERMANICA ET ITALICA. Festschrift für Helmut Rix_ [Innsbruck 1993])We mourn the passing of Prof. Dr. Helmut Rix (1926–2004), professor emeritus in the Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg. Prof. Rix died in a car accident in Alsace last Friday. My condolences to the family and friends who survive him.

His research—done over the course of his 54-year career—has greatly influenced Indo-European linguistics, especially Italic. Many works by him are standard in the field. To name but a few: his Historische Grammatik des Griechischen, one of the more readable German references, is the Greek Linguistics student’s best friend. His Sabellische Texte, gathering all Oscan, Umbrian, South Picene, Paelignian and other Indo-European non-Latin Italic inscriptions in one edition, often re-examining the actual stones, is indispensable. His Lexicon der indogermanischen Verben brings together in dictionary form all the research on Indo-European verbal morphology since Pokorny and took us halfway towards replacing Pokorny’s now outdated etymological dictionary. He leaves behind with his collaborators work on its companion volume Lexicon der indogermanischen Nomens, as well as projects Etruscological.

On a personal note, I was able to meet Prof. Rix when he came to LA in 2002 as one of our annual conference’s featured speakers. Leading up to his visit, we exchanged pleasant e-mails. In person, he was such a nice man. I gave my second-ever paper at that conference. He was kind with his feedback—an ego-boost I was in desperate need of. I was disappointed to miss him in Paris in 2003 when we were supposed to present on the same program once more. He was just one of those few great scholars who are good human beings.

If I may take liberties with the Naevius epitaph, and if my effort be not offensive:

Immortālēs     mortālēs          sī foret     fās flēre,
flērent dīvae     Camēnae          [grammaticō     Galeae].
Itaque postquam     est Orchī          trāditus     thēsaurō,
oblītī sunt     [ubīque]          loquier lingu[īs     Ītalīs].

If it were proper for immortals to weep for mortals,
the divine Camenae would weep for the [philologist Helmut].
And so, after he was handed over to Orchus’ hoard,
they forgot [everywhere how] to speak the [Italic] language[s].

Photo above (reduced) was taken from the TITUS obituaries page, which in turn is from Gerhard Meiser, ed., INDOGERMANICA ET ITALICA. Festschrift für Helmut Rix zum 65. Geburtstag (Innsbruck 1993).


  posted at 13/12/04 2:47 AM :

I find it kind of ironic that the day I stumble across your blog, you (living far from Germany or the Alsace, for that matter) have bad news for the indogermanistische community before I (living in Muenster, Germany, & having presumably faster wires to German "insiders") got it.
Thank you for your fine blog! It's definitely worthwhile. Greetings from good ol' Germany,


  posted at 13/12/04 6:31 AM :

g̑hu̯eros g̑neh₃dhlis diu̯ei ph₂trei:

Thank you for your visit and comment. It is sad news indeed. I should have explicitly acknowledged my advisor, who alerted me to the TITUS notice. Mundus Indoeuropaeus est parvus, vel minor quam sentīmus. American (Harvardian) Indogermanistik is closely tied to European.

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