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  • Andrei Anatolievich Zalizniak In Memoriam*
  • Vladimir Borschev and Barbara H. Partee

1. Introduction

Andrei Anatolievich Zalizniak1 (April 29, 1935–December 24, 2017) was a linguist who was greatly admired and greatly loved. Those who knew him and his work found it remarkable that a single linguist could have accomplished so much in one lifetime,2 and yet was so enthusiastically generous of his time with students, schoolchildren, colleagues, and curious strangers.

Zalizniak's father, Anatolij Andreevič Zalizniak (1906–78), was an engineer. His mother, Tatjana Konstantinovna Krapivina (1910–2011), was a chemist. She lived with Zalizniak and Paducheva for her last decades. Elena Viktorovna Paducheva (b. 1935) and Zalizniak were married in 1958; Paducheva is a distinguished linguist in her own right, a Doctor of Philology, and a renowned semanticist. Their daughter, Anna Andreevna Zalizniak (b. 1959), is [End Page 3] a linguist, a Doctor of Philology and a research scientist at the RAN Institute of Linguistics; she is married to philologist Mikhail Mikheev and has two children, Boris Turovsky (b. 1987) and Melanie Mikheeva (b. 1999).

2. Early Years3

In 1946, his mother sent the 11-year-old Zalizniak to relatives in Western Belarus, to the town of Pruzhany, which had earlier been part of Poland. At that time there were many languages spoken there, including Russian, Belarusian, and Polish. Polish made a particular impression on him—it had a different alphabet. So he taught himself to speak Polish. Later it turned out that the pronunciation there differed greatly from Warsaw pronunciation, so when he tried to show that he knew some Polish, he was roundly laughed at. (He laughs roundly himself as he tells the story.)

He soon started buying textbooks and dictionaries of various languages in second-hand Moscow book stores. In 1951 he learned that Moscow State University would host the first Olympiad in "literature and languages". He entered and won first prize. There he and Lena Paducheva, who won third prize in the same Olympiad, first saw each other; they became acquainted only in University (Elena Paducheva, p.c.). In 1952 he participated in the next Olympiad and, again, did brilliantly.

3. University Years and Paris

In 1952 Zalizniak was admitted to the Romance-Germanic section of the MSU philological faculty. He studied with several philologists, especially Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, the great Soviet and Russian philologist and Indo-Europeanist, who was fired from MSU in 1960 because of his sympathy for Boris Pasternak and connections with Roman Jakobson. Zalizniak's main interests became general linguistics, typology, Indo-European, and Germanic linguistics.

In his biography there is an episode unusual for the Soviet period: at the end of his fourth year at the university, he was selected to go to Paris for 1956–57. He attributes his luck to being practically the only male student who knew French; girls were not sent abroad alone for a year (for their protection). It presumably didn't hurt that he was an outstanding student and excellent at languages.

Before he left for Paris, he received memorable advice: "Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov provided me with a list of all the professors in Paris [End Page 4] whose lectures were most worth attending—with a firm order: courses must be chosen not by their topic, but by who is lecturing" (Zalizniak 2018: 17).

In Paris at the École Normale Supérieure, the lectures that had the longest-lasting impact on him were Martinet's on general linguistics and Benveniste's on Iranian linguistics. He also studied the Vedas and Crete-Mycenaean philology (Zalizniak 2010: 214). Zalizniak describes his Paris year vividly in the Ostrova video and in Zalizniak 2018.

Dmitri Sitchinava recalls, "The time spent in Paris, he always remembered with pleasure—both the scientific and the everyday aspects. In his apartment there is a painting in primitive style by one of his friends4 with the caption 'Zalizniak in Paris, or eternal youth'. His first book was a Russian-French learners' dictionary (Zalizniak 1961) with a masterly 150-page description of Russian grammar, his Očerk. Such grammatical 'précis'5 were to become his business card. In later years, he tried to visit the city of his 'eternal...


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