Harm Pinkster

Harm Pinkster – in memoriam#

Harm Pinkster (b. 5/3/1942), a former Council member of Academia Europaea and a member of the section for Classic and oriental studies since 1989 and its former chair, passed away on December 14th 2021 after a short period of illness.

He had been professor of Latin at the University of Amsterdam from 1980 to 2004. He was elected a fellow of the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities) in 1988, and was a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy (2004) and a Foreign Fellow of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters (2008). He held honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

Pinkster is a major figure in classical studies in the late 20th and early 21st century. Together with his former supervisor Anton Daniel Leeman he wrote an important commentary on Cicero’s fundamental work De oratore ‘On the orator’, which involves work on literature, philology and literary theory.

His main scholarly achievement is, however, in the field of Latin linguistics. His book Latin Syntax and Semantics (first published in Dutch in 1984, then in various translations) has been of overwhelming importance in the field and contributed to a better understanding of several key aspects of Latin grammar. He started the biennial series of international colloquia on Latin linguistics in 1981 which is still running some 40 years later.

In 2015 the first volume of his very significant Oxford Latin Syntax was published, a work which both synthesises developments in the field over the last six decades and bears the stamp of his own vision and understanding of the phenomena in question; volume 2 appeared in 2021. The publication of this work is a major event in Latin studies which will be of importance for the field for many years to come. One of its striking features is the richness of exemplification through into late Latin, a quality which is typical of his work more generally and which explains its relevance not only for Latinists but also for those whose principal concern is the transition from Latin to Romance and diachronic morphosyntax more generally.

Pinkster’s work is impressive in its own right, but impressive too is the fact that he kept an open mind and was interested in listening to and debating with scholars of all generations. That he remained active in the field until shortly before his untimely death is clear from the fact that he was due to give a course for doctoral students before the 21st International Colloquium on Latin Linguistics in Santiago de Compostela in May 2022 (originally expected to take place in 2021 but postponed due to the current pandemic).

Pinkster also held various important administrative positions, including Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Amsterdam 1975–1978, Vice-President of the Dutch Science Foundation 1988 - 1996, member of the Foresight Committee of the Dutch Ministry of Education 1992–1997, and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, The University of Amsterdam 1996 - 2002.

Professor Gerd Haverling, Chair of the Classic and oriental studies section of Academia Europaea
Professor Nigel Vincent, member of the Linguistic studies section of Academia Europaea
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