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  • Jens Nørgård-Sørensen In Memoriam
  • Anton V. Zimmerling

Jens Nørgård-Sørensen (1954–2015) was an outstanding linguist, one of the most prominent academic leaders in Slavic studies, a dedicated teacher, an active organizer of educational and research networks, and a friend who we will dearly miss.

Nørgård-Sørensen the Scholar

Professor Jens Nørgård-Sørensen was born on 31 July 1954. He graduated from Aarhus University in 1976 and received his MA there in 1981, earning a University Gold Medal for his MA thesis “The category of definiteness in Russian” (Danish “Bestemthedskategorien i russisk”). After several years as a research fellow and then an assistant professor, he advanced to reader (lektor) at the University of Copenhagen in 1991. He finished his doctoral dissertation and was awarded the doctorate (dr. phil.) at the University of Copenhagen in 1992. In the period 2004– 09 he held an extraordinary professorship. In addition to his role as teacher and academic advisor, Nørgård-Sørensen served his university in a variety of leadership functions, including two terms as department chair. He represented the University of Copenhagen as a visiting fellow in Cambridge, UK (1994–95) and St. Petersburg (2010) and at numerous conferences in Slavic and general linguistics around the world. Jens had also planned to come to Moscow as a visiting fellow in the fall semester of 2015. He was an active member of the Slavic Linguistics Society and presented papers at several SLS annual meetings, including the founding SLS meeting in Bloomington (2006). His talk was on the program of the last SLS annual meeting in Heidelberg (September 2015), but unfortunately did not take place. Since 2005, Nørgård-Sørensen had been editor-in-chief of the journal Scando-Slavica. And since 1997 hе had also been president of the Danish Slavic Association and the Danish delegate to the International Committee for Slavic Studies. In 2015, the university finally rewarded his merits with a permanent professorship. [End Page 177] Tragically, the appointent took place just a month before his untimely death. On 7 August 2015 Jens Nørgård-Sørensen died of a heart attack. Colleagues and close friends knew that Jens had suffered from a year-long serious illness, but his death was a shock to everybody.

Among Slavic and general linguists Nørgård-Sørensen was known for his contributions to Modern Russian grammar, especially Modern Russian morphology and morphosyntax, to the history of Russian, and to the theory of grammaticalization. Nørgård-Sørensen’s doctoral dissertation Coherence theory: The case of Russian, which was published in 1992 in the series Trends in linguistics: Studies and monographs, vol. 63 (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter), displays his interest in the interaction of grammar mechanisms with lexicon and a holistic vision of natural language, as well as his skills in the implementation of different theories and methods, including elements of logical analysis, functional sentence perspective, and discourse analysis. Nørgård-Sørensen was one of those rare linguists who are guided both by firm intuition and by deep knowledge of interface-conditioned phenomena. His first book included a chapter on word order, intonation, and theme–rheme structure in Russian. One of the leitmotifs in Nørgård-Sørensen’s research in general and in his second monograph, Russian nominal semantics and morphology (Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2011), in particular, was the idea of conceptual kinship of nominal categories (definiteness, animacy, gender, case) and verbal categories (tense, aspect, mood). As an expert in historical Slavic grammar, Nørgård-Sørensen looked for support of his hypothesis on the underlying similarity of nominal animacy and verbal aspect in the parallel development of these categories in the Slavic languages. The same year, the collective monograph Connecting grammaticalization, coauthored by Nørgård-Sørensen with his Danish colleagues Lars Heltoft and Lene Schøsler, appeared in the series Studies in structural and functional linguistics (vol. 65; Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011). The authors advance a theory of interrelated grammaticalization changes and argue that grammatical change always comprises semantic change. Nørgård-Sørensen’s contribution...


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