Dahl Östen#

Short laudatio by Ferenc Kiefer#

Östen Dahl is a semantician and typologist with an excellent formal training and empirical background. In the 70s he published articles on various semantic questions such as reference, generics, animacy, presuppositions, and the relationship between logic and linguistics. He co-authored a book on logic in linguistics (Swedish original in 1971, English translation 1977) which is still used as a handbook all over the world. But already at that time he was particularly interested in the problems of tense and aspect, which soon became his main field of research.

In the late 70s and early 80s he published numerous articles on tense and aspect from a typological perspective. He summarized his results in his book on ‘Tense and Aspect Systems’ (1985), a typological work based on data taken from various geographically and genetically distant languages, which is considered to be a major publication in linguistic typology. Though it was published some twenty years ago and has been used widely by researchers, it will have an impact on research on tense and aspect for many years to come.

After various articles on language contact in the Baltic area he published another major work on ‘The Growth and Maintenance of Linguistic Complexity” (2004), in which he studies linguistic complexity and the processes by which it arises and is maintained. Complexity is seen as an objective property of a system, a measure of the amount of information needed to describe or reconstruct it. Grammatical complexity is the result of historical processes often discussed under the rubric of grammaticalization. Östen Dahl is one of the leading typologists in contemporary linguistics. What makes his typological work unique is the emphasis on semantic aspects.



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