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Kostas Kazazis: In Memoriam

by Victor A. Friedman

Editor's note: Kostas Kazazis was a good friend to the Arumanian community and language. Among his extensive writings on practically all of the Balkan languages, he also contributed an enlightening article to our Newsletter ("Some Recent Greek Views on Arumanian," Volume 10, Issue 2: 1996). The following is excerpted from a tribute that will appear in Balkanistica 16 (2003).

    On 23 December 2002, Kostas Kazazis died in his home of cardiac arrest. His untimely and unexpected passing is a loss deeply felt by the field of Balkan linguistics, to which Kostas contributed so much both personally and academically. Born in Athens on 15 July 1934, he attended high school in Greece (Diploma 1952) and then studied political science at the University of Lausanne (License 1957). He earned an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kansas in 1959 and received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Indiana University in 1965. That same year he began teaching in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, from which he retired in June 2000…

    Kostas published extensively on Modern Greek grammar, with special attention to problems of diglossia in that language, and he also published on practically all the languages of the Balkans, especially Albanian (including both Shqip and Arvanitika), Daco-Romanian (including Moldavian), Aromanian, and Turkish but with attention also to Macedonian, Bulgarian and the former Serbo-Croatian. His 1964 Reference Grammar of Literary Dhimotiki (with F.W. Householder and A. Koutsoudas) was for many years the only work of its kind in English, and to this day it remains a highly important reference work. His 1969 article on the status of Turkisms in the Balkan languages is a classic against which all subsequent work on the topic can still be measured…

    Kostas will be remembered by those who knew him not only as a brilliant scholar and teacher, but also as a warm and gentle human being with a wonderful sense of humor. Always ready with a joke or a pun regardless of the language he was speaking, he was also extremely generous with his time and open in his views. As reported by Christina Kramer, at the Fourth Macedonian-American Conference on Macedonian Studies, held at the University of Toronto, he amazed the local Macedonians — many of whom came to Canada as refugees from Greek Macedonia — with his opposition to Greek government policies. At that same conference, he spent a long break period explaining his views to Greek students who had come prepared to heckle the speakers, and he talked them out of their disruptive intent. The writer of these lines benefited from Kostas’s generosity throughout our long friendship. Especially illustrative is the time I was hospitalized in 1973. Kostas came to my room at Billings Hospital so we could continue our reading course in Balkan linguistics, and he brought me a copy of Aspects of the Balkans as a get-well gift. The book had only recently been published by Mouton and was priced far beyond the budget of a graduate student. It was the perfect present.

    Kostas was a formative influence on many generations of Balkanists and linguists, both at the University of Chicago and beyond it, through his teaching, his conference papers and his publications. He was a shining example in Greek scholarship for the study of the languages of Greece’s ethnic minorities as well as the study of Greek. Although in the 20th century the term "Balkan" became freighted with negative implications, Kostas was a true Balkanist in a very positive sense of the word: a polyglot scholar who relished and mastered both the details and the theoretical issues of the languages in this complex region, one who could communicate with and inspire admiration in people of all ethnicities and all educational backgrounds. Able to understand and appreciate everything that is special and good about Southeastern Europe, he communicated his knowledge and his skills both within the academic community and beyond it.

Memory eternal.


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