Obituary: Emeritus Professor Gaberell Drachman (1925–2014) and Dr. Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman (1924–2015)

In: Journal of Greek Linguistics
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  • 1 University of Crete

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I report with sadness the passing of two distinguished experts in Greek Linguistics, of our dear colleagues, friends, as well as teachers (to some of us), Professor Gaberell Drachman and his wife Dr. Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman.

Professor Gaberell Drachman, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Salzburg, passed away in Salzburg on September 10, 2014, after a very long and brave fight against cancer. Dr. Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman passed away in Athens on May 4, 2015, due to her general fragile health, which caused a number of serious problems that deteriorated after her husband passed away.

Professor Gaberell Drachman was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1925. After his schooling he worked as a radar technician, and after the end of the Second World War he served in the British Royal Air Force (1945–1948). After leaving the Air Force in 1948, he began his studies at the University of St. Andrews where he studied English literature and philology and attended courses in classical Hebrew as well. Being multi-talented, while attending the university he worked in an acting troupe, performing an almost exclusively Shakespearean repertoire. After finishing his MA, he worked as a technical research author at the engine manufacturer Napier & Son in London. In 1955 he moved to Greece where he stayed until 1962. In Greece he worked as an English language teacher on the island of Spetses, at the Athens British Council, and at the University of Athens. He translated Greek novels and poems into English, and he carried out linguistic and literary fieldwork on Greek and on other languages spoken in Greece, including Albanian, Aromanian, and Romani.

During his stay in Greece, he first learned of the field of linguistics after meeting linguist and university lecturer Angeliki Malikouti, who would later become his wife, and also by becoming acquainted with Eric Hamp, Professor at the University of Chicago and frequent visitor to Greece. Gaberell was fascinated by linguistics and chose the field as one of his specializations. He subsequently attended the University of Chicago, where he engaged in systematic linguistic studies with the prominent scholars there, including Hamp. Under the sponsorship of the Northwest Society, he conducted extensive fieldwork collecting material from a few remaining speakers of the Amerindian language Twana (during the summers of 1963, 1964, 1965). This fieldwork became the basis for his dissertation, entitled Twana Phonology (1969), which was couched within the framework of generative phonology. The Twana language has been extinct now for many years and Gaberell used to say, with his characteristic sense of humor, that he was “the last living Twana speaker”. After completing his doctoral studies he joined the faculty at The Ohio State University, eventually becoming an Associate Professor. In 1973 he moved to Europe and began a distinguished academic career as a Professor of General and Applied Linguistics at the University of Salzburg Department of Linguistics, where he also held the departmental chair for many years. He retired in 1995 but continued teaching until 2006.

Gaberell was very active and constantly promoted the international profile of the Department of Linguistics in Salzburg by organizing international summer schools, e.g. the summer school of the Linguistic Society of America (1979) and the Salzburg Summer School in Linguistics (1982, 1985), and by regularly inviting internationally prominent linguists to give lectures or to teach block seminars on various linguistic subfields, including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition, and neurolinguistics.

As a researcher, although Gaberell began as a phonologist, over his career he expanded his interests to morphology and syntax. He published a significant number of papers, many of them in collaboration with his wife Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman. Together they conducted pioneering research on various issues of Modern Greek and Greek dialects while working at the cutting edge of current theoretical linguistic frameworks. He edited a number of conference volumes, and until his passing he was co-editor of the Journal of Greek Linguistics. He presented his work at important international conferences and was almost always present at conferences on Greek Linguistics. Up until the very end he demonstrated a youthful enthusiasm for research and lively linguistic discussions and argumentations.

Gaberell offered a wide spectrum of interesting lectures and seminars mainly on the leading contemporary theories in phonology, morphology, and syntax, applying them to English, German, and Greek. He was also very interested in other subfields of linguistics and therefore gave lectures and taught seminars on psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, language pathology, bio-linguistics, computational linguistics, and linguistic field methods. As a guest Professor he also taught postgraduate linguistic seminars at the University of Athens for a number of years and he gave a significant number of talks at other universities in Greece and in Cyprus. He supervised dissertations in phonology, morphology, syntax, and clinical phonology, and a number of these dissertations investigated issues of Modern Greek. Many of his former students hold positions in universities or research institutions throughout Europe and Greece. As a teacher, he was very passionate, inspiring, demanding, and constructively critical. He cared not only for the students of his department, but also for the incoming Erasmus students from Greece, as well as for any postgraduate student from Greece who sought his advice.

Dr. Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman was born in Piraeus in 1924 and studied Greek Philology at the University of Athens. She completed her postgraduate studies in Linguistics under the mentorship of André Martinet in Paris. Later, in 1967, at the University of Athens, she submitted her PhD dissertation entitled Transformational Morphology of the Modern Greek Noun [written in Greek], which was later published in 1970. When she met her husband Gaberell Drachman, she had already begun a promising academic career as a linguist at the University of Athens. When Gaberell moved to Chicago, she followed him, leaving Greece. In the United States she also carried out fieldwork sponsored by the Northwest Society and collected grammatical and lexical material from the southernmost Amerindian dialects (summer 1964, 1965). When Angeliki and Gaberell moved to Salzburg in 1973, she began working as a lecturer at the University of Salzburg Department of Linguistics teaching Phonology in undergraduate and postgraduate courses and seminars.

Angeliki had a very thorough knowledge of all phonological theoretical frameworks of 20th century, from Structuralism to Optimality Theory, and she was always willing to share this knowledge with her students, offering them a variety of advanced seminars in phonology, e.g. in generative, autosegmental, metrical, lexical phonology, government phonology, and optimality theory. As a teacher, she was inspiring and eager to be involved in linguistic discussions. Furthermore, she was supportive of her students, showing interest in and understanding for their various personal and academic issues. Angeliki co-supervised many dissertations on phonology together with Gaberell, and she shared her experience and ideas, giving valuable advice and helping her doctoral students to get on track. For a number of years, she taught postgraduate seminars on phonology as a guest Professor at the University of Athens, and she gave a significant number of talks, either individually or together with Gaberell, at other universities in Greece and in Cyprus, and as an invited speaker at international conferences.

Angeliki’s vast knowledge of phonology is also reflected in her contributions to the field. She conducted pioneering research on issues in Modern Greek phonology and morphology as well as on issues in Greek dialectology. She presented her own work as well as her joint work with Gaberell at numerous international conferences, while also publishing in journals, edited volumes, and conference proceedings.

Gaberell and Angeliki—the “Drachmans”—were a team not only in their private life but also in their academic life. Both were fully committed to the field of Linguistics and especially to research on the Modern Greek language and Greek dialects. They were among the first linguists who, with their innovative research on Greek phonology, morphology, and syntax, introduced to Greece the methodology and analytical tools behind the most advanced theoretical frameworks, inspiring students and other fellow linguists. The Drachmans were also among the first to introduce the analysis and comparison of dialectal phenomena by means of current linguistic frameworks, stepping outside the boundaries of traditional descriptive dialectology and opening a new era in research into Greek and its dialects. A bibliography with their scholarly work is included in an honorary volume dedicated to both Gaberell and Angeliki, published in 2008 (xv–xxix, in N. Lavidas, et al. (eds.), New Perspectives in Greek Linguistics, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholar Publishing).

Both Gaberell and Angeliki will be remembered by their “family” of scholars and researchers in Greek linguistics and their legacy will live on through their scientific achievements.


This information on the early activities, nonlinguistic and linguistic, of Prof. G. Drachman is drawn from the eulogy read by Prof. Dr. Thomas Krisch at the University of Salzburg (17/9/2014). Many thanks also to Anna Papasotiriou, a relative of Dr. Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman, for providing me with a variety of information on both Gaberell and Angeliki.

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