Huno Rätsep (ENG)

Huno Rätsep (born 28 Dec., 1927 in Tartu) is an Estonian linguist and member of the Academy of Sciences who has worked in the Department of Estonian Language at the University of Tartu for over forty years, including a period from 1975 as the head of the department and as professor since 1977. He defended his candidate’s thesis, “Infinite verb forms in Finno-Ugric languages” in 1954, and 20 years later, in 1974, he also defended a doctoral dissertation entitled „The structure of simple sentences in Estonian. Verb-centered sentence types“. Huno Rätsep was named Professor Emeritus of the University of Tartu in 1994.

Huno Rätsep is remarkable for his broad linguistic interests. He has been involved in introducing new directions in linguistics and has been active in linguistic research. From the early 1960s, Rätsep lectured and led seminars on structural linguistics and new trends in linguistic research. He also led a seminar on structural linguistics in the Department of Estonian Language at the University of Tartu, which was attended by undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as lecturers; participants in these seminars read, reviewed and discussed recent literature. This „Generative Grammar Group“ produced numerous publications, including the series „Language and structure“ (Keel ja struktuur) and „Issues in modelling language“ (Keele modelleerimise probleeme). Huno Rätsep may be considered the main shaper of a new generation of linguists in Estonia, and in the 1980s he was the primary leader of directions in linguistic research in Estonia.

As a researcher, Huno Rätsep has been primarily concerned with Estonian syntax and vocabulary. In vocabulary studies, his main interests have lain in Baltic-Finnic phraseology, loan words, and more broadly, possibilities for enriching the Estonian vocabulary and lexical etymology. In syntax, Rätsep’s most important contribution is his doctoral dissertation „The structure of simple sentences in Estonian. Verb-centered sentence types“ (1974) and its expanded version, published in 1978 as a monograph entitled „Simple sentence types in Estonian“. This monograph was awarded a state prize in 1980.

In 1981, Huno Rätsep was elected as a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in the field of Estonian language; in 1998 he was awarded the F.J. Wiedemann Language Award; and in 2001 he was awarded the Order of the White Star, Fourth Class.