Jan. 23, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 9

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    Obituary: Joan Coromines, Romance Languages

    Joan Coromines, Professor Emeritus in Romance Languages & Literatures and author of the definitive multi-volume dictionaries of both the Spanish (Castillian) and Catalonian languages, died Jan. 2 in Barcelona, Spain. He was 91.

    Known as a defender of Catalonian literature, culture and language, Coromines rose to celebrity status in Spain after the publication of his two etymological language dictionaries and his dictionary of Catalonian place names.

    "His etymological dictionaries are two of the most important works in philology," said Mario Santana, Assistant Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures.

    Coromines received several prestigious awards for his work from Spain and Catalonia, including the Gold Medal from the government of Catalonia (1980), the Prize of Honor for Catalonian letters (1984), the National Prize for Spanish letters (1989) and the James I Prize (1981).

    His Diccionario Critico Etimologico de la Lengua Castellana (1954 through 1957) was called "a great, lasting and monumental work of modern linguistic scholarship" by the Modern Language Association. His multi-volume dictionary of the Catalonian language was published from 1981 through 1984.

    Coromines is also known for his six-volume, 1,000-page work tracing Catalonian place names called Onomasticon Cataloniae. The final edition included 600,000 place names and 100,000 proper names, each with a discussion of the name's evolution.

    Coromines was born in Barcelona but was exiled at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. After spending time in Paris and Argentina, he emigrated to the United States. In 1945 he joined the Chicago faculty. In addition to serving as Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures, he was the George J. Metcalf Professor and Chairman of Germanic Languages. He retired in 1967.

    Coromines received his M.A. from the University of Barcelona in 1927 and his Ph.D. from the University of Madrid in 1928. He also studied at the Universities of Montpellier (France), Paris and Zurich. He was associate professor of romance philology at the University of Barcelona from 1930 though 1939.