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Farewell to Claus Schönig

In: International Journal of Eurasian Linguistics
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Elisabetta Ragagnin Berlin Germany Venice Italy

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Prof. Dr. Claus Schönig

23.10.1955–23.6.2019

Citation: International Journal of Eurasian Linguistics 1, 2 (2019) ; 10.1163/25898833-12340015

On June 23, Claus Schönig closed his eyes forever. He was taken away all too early at the young age of 63 by a devastating illness. He died in his home in Mainz, his nutag, the place he loved more than any other place on Earth. The world has lost a great Turcologist, a precious friend to many of us, and a fantastic teacher. We will all remember his charismatic character, and his special, deliciously noir, sense of humour. He could preserve these qualities even in the difficult last years of his life, especially thanks to the indefatigable cares of his wife Ursel.

Claus was born on October 23, 1955 in Mainz, son of the forwarding merchant Rudolf Schönig and his wife Apollonia. In 1974, after finishing the state Gutenberg-Gymnasium, he enrolled at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz as a student of mathematics. However, after a break in order to serve in the military, he completely changed his direction of studies: he first switched into Islamic Studies and—as Claus himself used to tell with affection—after getting acquainted with Professor Johannes Benzing, into linguistic Gesamtturkologie which at that time also included the study of Mongolic, Tungusic and Paleosiberian languages. His minors were Islamic philology, encompassing Arabic, Persian and Turkish, and Islamic studies. Besides Arabic, he was very interested in other Semitic languages, especially Ethiopian and Accadian. Besides Johannes Benzing, other academic teachers of Claus Schönig were Lars Johanson, Hans-Jürgen Kornrumpf and Ahmed Temir. In 1983, at the same university, he earned his PhD with a dissertation on auxiliary verbs in Tatar, published in 1984 at Steiner in Wiesbaden. He then obtained the German Habilitation in 1995 at the Free University Berlin with a dissertation on finite predications and text structure in Bāburnāme, the earliest Islamic biography composed by Bābur Shah, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India and written in the Middle Turkic Chaghatay language. This study was published in 1997 in the book series Turcologica.

With regard to his academic career, after various peregrinations holding diverse positions at several universities such as Mainz, Frankurt M., Essen and Giessen, and leading for two periods the Orient Institute in Istanbul (1994–1996 and 2001–2007), he was appointed professor of Turcology at the Free University Berlin as the successor of Barbara Kellner-Heinkele. Until February 2019, he was the director of the Institute for Turcology of the Free University Berlin.

As for membership to associations and academies, since 2006 he was member of the Academia Europaea and since 2009 corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen.

With regard to his personal life, he was first married with Hannelore Schönig (née Lüpertz) and, since December 6, 2013, with Ursula (Ursel) Holpp.

Claus was simply an extraordinary Turcologist: he truly incarnated the philologically and linguistically oriented Gesamtturkologie in all its vastness. He produced very innovative and important contributions on Middle Turkic, the origin of Siberian Turkic languages, the classification of Turkic languages in general, Turkic-Mongolic linguistic relations, Mongolic elements in West Oghuzic, as well as many other controversial issues of “Altaic” linguistics, just to mention a few. Below, the reader can find his complete list of publications.

Claus Schönig was also a very gifted and inspiring teacher: he could present all the above-mentioned topics in a very fluid and organic manner, always interrelating them with the relevant historical and/or cultural background information, truly hypnotizing the audience.

Students knew him both as a strict and demanding professor and as an inspiring muse. He always had time for interested and talented students. As for colleagues and friends, the door of his house was always open for talented students too, be it in Mainz, in Istanbul or Berlin. The table was always ready with selected food delights and chosen bottles.

I first came across Claus Schönig’s name in 1993 in the carpet bazar of Istanbul. At that time, I was a very young girl, studying Oriental Languages and Cultures in Venice, with too many and at the same time no ideas about the future. Well, that day, a tall German guy—whose name or physical appearance I do not remember—told me that I should continue my studies in Mainz with his friend Claus Schönig. Life is indeed always magical and full of surprises. Years passed, az gittik uz gittik, I could be Claus’ colleague at the Free University and could help him in continuing in Berlin the Turcological tradition of Mainz.

According to the beliefs of several peoples in the North, the human body has several souls. Claus surely had many and at least one is still with us, taking pleasure in elegance, beauty and science and laughing at the nonsenses of life, drinking a bottle of sparkling wine.

Publication List of Claus Schönig

Monographs

  • Ker(g)äk—zur Biographie eines erfolgreichen Etymons. In: Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vol. 87. Wiesbaden. 2013.

  • Mongolische Lehnwörter im Westoghusischen. In: Turcologica, Vol. 47. Wiesbaden. 2000.

  • Finite Prädikationen und Textstruktur im Babur-name. In: Turcologica, Vol. 31. Wiesbaden. 1997.

  • Hilfsverben im Tatarischen. Untersuchungen zur Funktionsweise einiger Hilfsverbverbindungen. VOK XXXV. Wiesbaden. 1984.

Editorship

  • Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Raschmann, Simone-Christiane; Schönig, Claus; Winkelhane, Gerd; Zieme, Peter (eds): Monumenta et Studia Turcologica. Ausgewählte Schriften von György Hazai. In: Studien zur Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur der Türkvölker, Vol. 14. Berlin. 2012.

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  • Heuer, Brigitte; Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Schönig, Claus (eds): Die Wunder der Schöpfung. Mensch und Natur in der türksprachigen Welt. Würzburg. 2012.

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  • Erdal, Marcel; Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Ragagnin, Elisabetta; Schönig, Claus (eds): Botanica und Zoologica in der türkischen Welt. Festschrift für Ingeborg Hauenschild. Turcologica 90. Wiesbaden. 2012.

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  • Sagaster, Börte; Schweißgut, Karin; Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Schönig, Claus (eds): Hoşsohbet. Erika Glassen zu Ehren. In: Istanbuler Texte und Studien, Vol. 25. Herausgegeben vom Orient-Institut Istanbul. Würzburg. 2011.

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  • Kiral, Filiz; Pusch, Barbara; Schönig, Claus; Yumul, Arus (eds): Cultural changes in the Turkic speaking world. Istanbuler Texte und Studien 7. Würzburg. 2007.

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  • Hauenschild, I.; Schönig, C.; Zieme, P. (eds): Scripta Ottomanica et res Altaicae. Festsschrift für Barbara Kellner-Heinkele zu ihrem 60. Geburtstag. Veröffentlichungen der Societas Uralo-Altaica, Vol. 56. Wiesbaden. 2002.

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  • Cabbar, Settar; Özsoy, A. Sumru; Schönig, Claus; Karabacak, Esra; Baldauf, Ingeborg (eds): Kurtuluş yolunda. A work on Central Asian Literature in a Turkish-Uzbek mixed language. Beiruter Texte und Studien Vol. 66, Türkische Welten, Bd 2. Istanbul. 2000.

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  • Berta, A., Brendemoen, B. and Schönig, C. (eds): Symbolae Turcologicae. Studies in honour of Lars Johanson on his sixtieth birthday 8 March 1996. Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. Transactions, Vol. 6. Istanbul. 1996.

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  • Schönig, Claus (ed): Johannes Benzing: Bolgarisch-tschuwaschische Forschungen. Turcologica, Vol. 12. Wiesbaden. 1993.

  • Johanson, Lars; Schönig, Claus (eds): Kritische Beiträge zur Altaistik und Turkologie. Festschrift für Johannes Benzing. Turcologica, Vol. 3. Wiesbaden. 1988.

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  • Csató, Evá; Schönig, Claus (eds): Elsö német turkológiai konferencia. 1987, Bamberg. [Bericht über die erste deutsche Turkologen-Konferenz in Bamberg]. Keletkutatás. 1988. 8892.

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Articles in Books and Journals

  • Drinking, smoking, sniffing etc. between the Mediterranean Sea and the Nordic Arctic Ocean. In: Özertural, Z.; Şilfeler, G. (eds): Unter dem Bodhi—Baum. Festschrift für Klaus Röhrborn anlässlich des 80. Geburtstags. V & R Unipress. Göttingen. 2019. 303338.

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  • Im Garten der Lüste. In: Ragagnin, E.; Wilkens, J. (eds): Kutadgu Nom Bitig. Festschrift für Jens Peter Laut zum 60. Geburtstag. Veröffentlichungen der Societas Ural-Altaica, vol. 87. Wiebaden. 2015. 497538.

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  • Die modernen Türksprachen: Skizze zu einem Familienportrait. In: Studia Orientalia 113. Helsinki. 2013. 189196.

  • Some observations on the Oghuz immigration to Anatolia. In: Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 16. Istanbul. 2006 [2012]. 165183.

  • [with Hauenschild, I] Drogen im Bābur-nāme. In: Heuer, B.; Kellner-Heinkele, B.; Schönig, C. (eds): Die Wunder der Schöpfung. Mensch und Natur in der türksprachigen Welt. Würzburg. 2012. 217230.

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  • Lehnelemente in türkischen PronominalsystemenZeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 162, 2012, 353372.

  • Die hohe Kunst der Negation. In: Erdal, Marcel; Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Ragagnin, Elisabetta; Schönig, Claus (eds): Botanica und Zoologica in der türkischen Welt. Festschrift für Ingeborg Hauenschild. Turcologica 90. Wiesbaden. 2012. 147179.

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  • Babur als Literaturkritiker. In: Sagaster, Börte; Schweißgut, Karin; Kellner-Heinkele, Barbara; Schönig, Claus (eds): Hoşsohbet. Erika Glassen zu Ehren. Istanbuler Texte und Studien, Vol. 25. Würzburg. 2011. 223236.

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  • Osmanische Einflüsse auf das Krim-Areal. In: Mancak-Wohlfeld, Elzbieta; Podolak, Barbara (eds): Studies on the Turkic world. A Festschrift for Professor Stanislaw Stachowski on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Kraków. 2010. 107119.

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  • Einfach nützlich: yaraġ. In: Kappler, M.; Kirchner, M. and Zieme, P. with the editorial assistance of Muhammedowa, R. (eds): Trans-Turkic studies. Festschrift in honour of Marcel Erdal. Istanbul. 2010. 281298.

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  • Evliya Çelebî’de Moğolca’dan alınmış sözcükler. In: Nuran Tezcan (ed): Çağının Sıradışı Yazarı Evliya Çelebi. Istanbul. 2009. 373376.

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  • Some notes on modern Kipchak Turkic. Part II. In: UAJb N.F. 22. 2008 (2009). 109138.

  • Die Natur im Babur-name, einem zentralasiatisch-türkischen Memoiren-Werk vom Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts. In: Herrmann, B. (eds): Beiträge zum Göttinger umwelthistorischen Kolloquium 2008–2009. Göttingen. 2009.

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  • Zischen will gelernt sein. In: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarum Hung. Vol. 62 (2). Budapest. 2009. 131184.

  • Notizen zum Partizip auf -GALAK. In: Journal of Turkish Studies, Vol. 31/II. 2007 (2008). 225230.

  • Some notes on modern Kipchak Turkic. Part I. In: UAJb N.F. 21. 2007 (2008). 170202.

  • Notizen zu türkischen Gerundialformen (Konverbialformen) als verbale Kerne von Rollenprädikaten. In: Schroeder, Chr.; Hentschel, G.; Boeder, W. (eds): Secondary predicates in Eastern European Languages and beyond. Studia Slavica Oldenburgensia 16. Oldenburg. 2008. 327338.

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  • Desired identity and mistaken orthography among the Khakas of Siberia. In: Ildiko Beller-Hann (ed): The past as resource in the Turkic speaking world. Istanbuler Texte und Studien 8. Würzburg. 2008. 159167.

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  • On some unclear, doubtful and contradictory passages in Mahmūd al-Kāšġarī’s “Dīwān Luġāt at-Turk”. In: Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 14. 2004 (2007), 3556.

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  • Frauen im Babur-name. In: H. Fenz und P. Kappert (†) (eds): Turkologie für das 21. Jahrhundert. Herausforderungen zwischen Tradition und Moderne. Veröffentlichungen der Societas Uralo-Altaica, Vol. 70. Wiesbaden. 2006. 231242.

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  • Südsibirisch-türkische Entsprechungen von Völker und Stammesnamen aus der Geheimen Geschichte der Mongolen. In: Erdal, Marcel; Nevskaya, Irina (eds): Exploring the eastern frontiers of Turkic. Wiesbaden. 2006. 211242.

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  • Das Deutschland- und Deutschenbild der Türken. In: Frech, Siegfried; Öcal, Mehmet (eds): Europa und die Türkei. Schwalbach. 2006.

  • Lexikalische Schweifzüge. In: Turks and Non-Turks. Studies on the history of linguistic and cultural contacts. Special issue presented to Professor Stanislaw Stachowski on his seventy fifth birthday. Studia Turcologica Cracoviensa 10. 2005. 387404.

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  • Türkisch-mongolische Sprachbeziehungen. Versuch einer Zwischenbilanz. In: UAJb, N.F., 19. 2005. 131166.

  • Zu einigen Ausdrücken für ‘vor’ und ‘unter’ in den Türksprachen. In: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 155/2. 2005. 399433.