Obituary of MIQUEL SIGUAN#

Miquel Siguan i Soler was born in Barcelona in 1918.

He passed away May 8, 2010 at the age of 92.

At the age of sixteen he enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Barcelona, at the time when the University first gained independent status. Like the rest of his generation, he saw how his studies were interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, and after temporarily holding a leading post in the Catalan students' organization FNEC, he joined the Republican army as part of a unit which gathered men from a previous anarchist column (as recorded in his book War at Twenty; La guerra als vint anys, La Campana, 2002; La guerra a los veinte años, El Ciervo, 2004).

After the war and several misadventures he completed his philosophy studies, and in 1943 moved to Santander to work as a philosophy teacher in a secondary school. Later, in 1947, he moved to London where, at the London School of Economics, he joined forces with those developing a new approach to industrial psychology, namely the social psychology of work.

After returning to Spain, he completed and presented his PhD thesis La psicología del amor en la mística del siglo XII (The Psychology of Love in 12th Century Mysticism), which was updated and published fifty years later by Poblet Monastery.

In 1951 he joined the Department of Experimental Psychology of the CSIC (the Spanish Council for Scientific Research), shortly after its creation, under the direction of Dr. Germain; here he met Mariano Yela, José Luis Pinillos and other pioneers in the renewal of psychology in Spain. He was one of the founders of the School of Psychology of Madrid University, but soon after this a serious illness prevented him from working for over a year; however, he later returned to teach industrial psychology at the school. While in this post, and in collaboration with several industrial companies, he developed a new approach to work psychology, namely the social psychology of work and organizations.

The collections La empresa y el hombre (The Company and Man) and Hombre y sociedad (Man and Society), which he edited for several years for Rialp publishers, were important vehicles for the dissemination of this new perspective. His ideas in this field were recorded in En los umbrales del automatismo industrial (On the Threshold of Industrial Automatism, 1957) and, especially, in Problemas humanos del trabajo industrial (Human Issues in Industrial Work, 1958), as well as in the foreword to Maier's Psicología Industrial (Industrial Psychology, 1960; 4th edition, 1974).

In the 1960s Spain underwent a profound social transformation. The accelerated process of industrialization not only led to radical transformations in the organization of companies, making them more sensitive to human issues and social conflicts, but also caused massive emigration from the poor rural regions to the industrial centres in the periphery. This emigration involved both enormous social imbalance and tenacious attempts at integration. Siguan's interest in these issues led him to carry out CSIC-funded, in-depth research in the field and he published his conclusions in the book Del campo al suburbio. Un estudio sobre la inmigración interior en España (From the Country to the Suburb. A Study on Internal Immigration in Spain, 1959), which was awarded the national prize for literature on social issues. As a result of this study, he was asked to diagnose the social consequences of the Badajoz Plan (Colonización y desarrollo social; Colonization and Social Development, 1963). He was also asked by the Land Concentration Service of the Ministry of Agriculture to study the social consequences of concentration plans; these studies appear in his books El medio rural castellano (The Castilian Rural Environment, 1966) and El medio rural en Andalucia Oriental (The Rural Environment in Eastern Andalusia, 1971).

In 1962 he was appointed professor of psychology at the University of Barcelona. As his chair was part of the Philosophy Department, his mission was to teach this subject to future philosophy graduates. However, the great interest in psychology shown by many areas of society led him to set up a School of Psychology similar to the one in Madrid, and later to introduce a degree in psychology which soon attracted a large number of students. In time, it became an independent faculty.

After arriving at the University of Barcelona he decided that his dedication to industrial and social psychology did not provide an adequate basis for his university teaching, and he therefore turned his attention to the study of language genesis and development in children, initially in close contact with Piaget and the Geneva school, and later following his own approach influenced by the work of Vygotsky and Bruner. For a meeting of the Society of Scientific Psychology in French that was to take place in Barcelona in 1975, he prepared the text Du geste à la parole (From Gesture to Word), which was later published in the book Génèse du langage (Genesis of Language, 1977); here, challenging the theories in vogue at the time, he proposed a functional interpretation of language origin and development, and he remained true to this theory in subsequent works (see Origen y desarrollo de las funciones del lenguaje - Origin and Development of Language Functions - in the Tratado de Psicología General - Treatise of General Psychology - by J. Mayor and J.L. Pinillos.)

His interest in children's language also led him to write the handbook Methodology for the Study of Child Language (1983, in Catalan and Spanish) and Estudios sobre la psicología del lenguaje infantil (Studies on the Psychology of Children's Language, 1982). The fact that in Catalonia two languages coexist with which children are soon familiar led him to study bilingualism and its psychological and sociological implications, and to invite others to do the same; this work led to the publication of Estudi experimental del bilingüisme (Experimental Study of Bilingualism, 1985). He has continued to work on this topic.

Though his prime focus was psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics, his intellectual activity has not been limited to the study of language. In 1981 he published a book on the history of psychology in Catalonia (La psicologia a Catalunya) which is still the only general discussion of the subject; indeed, his interest in history has produced a large number of articles and monographic works. Further afield, he has written on humanist and ideological issues such as the temporality of existence and the sense of our culture (Mensch und Zeitlichkeit (1967) and Dekadenz der Ideologie), and has produced several studies on figures of our time including Marcuse, Fromm and Schaft.

In 1969 he became director of the newly created Institute of Educational Sciences (ICE) at the University of Barcelona. Under his leadership the Institute played an important role both in the training of teachers in response to the new tasks introduced by the reform of the educational system (General Act on Education, 1970), and in the reorganization of the educational system in Catalonia following the Statute of Autonomy and the introduction of Catalan into the teaching system. Among the activities he promoted, special mention should be made of the Seminar on Languages and Education: since it was first held in 1974, this yearly seminar has had a great influence on education and teaching practice, not only in Catalonia but also in the other autonomous regions with a language of their own, and it has even attracted international recognition. The papers presented at each yearly meeting are published in a volume whose index reflects the broad scope and rigour of the issues discussed, as well as the number and variety of its participants.

His international activity includes courses and conferences in various European and American universities, and he has participated in UNESCO missions as an expert advisor on educational topics in different countries: Santo Domingo (1973), Costa Rica (1974) and Ecuador (1976). Following a commission from the Bureau International d'Éducation in Geneva he wrote the handbook Education and Bilingualism in 1986, published in Spanish, French, English, Italian, Russian and Chinese. Also in 1986 he organized the Foundational Congress of the ISAPL (International Society of Applied Psycholinguistics) in Barcelona.

He joined the University of Barcelona at the time when the first social consequences of the 1960 Stabilization Plan were being felt, in the form of widespread opposition to the regime and support for the democratization of the political system. The desire for reform was particularly strong in the university environment. Also during this period, universities across America and Europe underwent an identity crisis, most clearly illustrated by the events of May 1968 in France. University members felt obliged to make ethical and political commitments, and Siguan sought for a number of years to maintain publication of the periodical Convivium; he also played a significant role in meetings between Christians and Marxists organized over a number of years by the Paulus Gesellschaft in Salzburg.

Strictly within the university setting, during the first democratic elections for the post of Rector he was part of the team headed by Dr. Antoni Badía and was appointed Vice-rector for University Planning (1979-81), and later (1983-84) he presided over the University Board.

In 1986 he retired, upon being appointed Professor Emeritus, and soon afterwards became a member of the Free College of Emeritus Professors. Later he was also appointed Honorary Director of the ICE of the University of Barcelona and Honorary Dean of its Faculty of Psychology. These new roles have seen him continue his scientific and social activity. He is still the editor of the University of Barcelona's Psychology Yearbook, which he founded in 1969, and for a number of years was president of the Spanish Psychological Society, which under his presidency became the Spanish Federation of Psychological Societies. At international level, in 1987 he became the first president of the UNESCO project LINGUAPAX and is still its honorary president. He was also invited by the European Commission to write the report Minority Languages in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Above all, however, he has continued to conduct research and publish his findings. In the linguistic field one of his main topics has been Spain's language diversity, on which he has given many courses and published numerous articles; his overall views on this issue can be found in Multilingual Spain (1992), of which he is now preparing a new edition. Also in this area he directed a survey conducted by the CIS (the Spanish Centre for Social Investigations), the results of which were published in Conocimiento y uso de las lenguas españolas (The Knowledge and Use of Spanish Languages, 1994).

The survey was repeated, also under his direction, some years later - Conocimiento y uso de las lenguas (Language Knowledge and Use, 1999) - and a third one is planned for the near future. Taking a broader approach to language diversity he has published, in Catalan and Spanish simultaneously, The Europe of Languages (1996), which was subsequently translated into French, English, Portuguese, German and Croatian (a new updated edition appeared in 2005).

However, in the field of languages his most ambitious work has been Bilingüismo y lenguas en contacto (Bilingualism and Languages in Contact, 2003), a psychological and sociological approach to multilingualism. He has also dealt with the educational issues arising from the education of immigrants, especially in the linguistic field: La escuela y los inmigrantes (Schools and Immigrants, 1998) and Inmigración y adolescencia (Immigration and Adolescence) (2003).

His studies now focus mostly on the fundamental aspects of language, and he has taught courses on The Functions of Language and The Impact of Writing on Language. Nevertheless, he retains an interest in his early work on the foundations of psychology as a science of human behaviour alongside biology and sociology.

During his career he has received several honours, including the national prize for literature, the Gold Medal of the city of Barcelona, and the Sant Jordi Cross. In the strictly academic domain, he is a member of the Academia Europaeaand was made Doctor Honoris Causa by Geneva University, the University of the Basque Country, the University of Sevilla and the University Automa from Barcelona, he also received the Compostela Prize, which is awarded by the European network of universities bearing that name.
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