Ferenc Kiefer

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Ferenc Kiefer
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Born(1931-05-24)May 24, 1931
Apatin, Yugoslavia
DiedNovember 21, 2020(2020-11-21) (aged 89)
Alma mater
  • Cistercian Grammar School
  • Eötvös József High School
  • linguist
  • Professor
  • Academy of Sciences ordinary member
Spouse(s)Júlia Janczyszyn
  • Bernát Munkácsi Award (2000)
  • Széchenyi Award (2008)
  • Miklós Révai Memorial Medal (2011)
  • Academic Gold Medal (2018)

Ferenc Kiefer (Apatin, Yugoslavia [now Serbia], 1931. May 24 - Budapest, 2020. November 21) Szechenyi Prize-winning Hungarian linguist, professor, Academy of Sciences ordinary member. The general linguistics and language semantics renowned researcher. Between 1992 and 2002 he was the director of the Institute of Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Early life

He moved with his family to Baja in 1943. He began his secondary school studies at the Cistercian Grammar School in Baja, but was dismissed from there in 1949, and was later able to graduate. He worked as an assistant and then as a warehouse worker in the then Stalin City (today: Dunaújváros). In 1952, he originally wanted to apply to a medical university, but was transferred to the Faculty of Science and Physics of the Attila József University (JATE), where he graduated as a teacher in 1956.

After graduating, he worked as a primary school teacher, then between 1957 and 1961 in Baja, and until 1962 at the Eötvös József High School in Budapest. In the meantime, he enrolled in the German-French department of the JATE Faculty of Arts, where he obtained his second degree in 1962, first in German and then in 1965 in French (at the same time he received his doctorate).

Scientific career

In 1962 he became a research fellow at the Institute of Computer Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where he began to study linguistics with his study Set Theory and Mathematical-Logical Models in Language. In 1973 he joined the Institute of Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where he became a senior researcher and later a scientific advisor. From 1984 to 1992 he was Deputy Director of the Institute and then until 2002 he was the Director. Meanwhile, in 1982 he was appointed a university professor in the Department of General Linguistics of Eötvös Loránd University, and later transferred to the Department of Symbolic Logic and Methodology of Science. He was emeritus in 2002.

He was a visiting professor at several foreign institutions: from 1969 to 1971 he was a visiting professor at Stockholm University. He then compiled the first Hungarian-Swedish dictionary. In addition, Paris (1971–1972, 1978–1979, 1994), Stuttgart (1971–1972), Aarhus (1977), Antwerp (1984), and Vienna (1986, 1988, 2002). Between 1965 and 1966, he was on a study trip to the United States with a Ford Fellowship.

In 1971 he defended his doctoral dissertation in linguistics, and in 1978 his academic doctoral dissertation. He became a member of the Linguistics Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 1987 he was elected a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in 1995 its full member. In 1999, he was appointed President of the Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies and also served on the Board of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He led the department until 2008. In 1993 he was admitted to the European Academy in London, in 1995 the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Paris and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

In 2003, he was elected President of the International Linguistic Society. He was appointed editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Acta Linguistica in 1993.

His research interests include linguistic semantics and pragmatics, and the areal effects of languages. During his work he reformed the research of the morphological features of the Hungarian language , where he began to develop and apply new methods. His achievements are significant in the field of meaning research (semantics) and linguistic pragmatics.

His family

From his first marriage he had one daughter, and from his second marriage (Júlia Janczyszyn, a psychologist of Polish origin) he had two sons.


  • Bernát Munkácsi Award (2000)
  • Széchenyi Award (2008)
  • Miklós Révai Memorial Medal (2011)
  • Academic Gold Medal (2018)

His main publications

  • Mathematical linguistic studies; National Technical Library and Documentation Center, Bp., 1964
  • A Theory of Structural Semantics (1966)
  • On Emphasis and the Word Order in Hungarian (1967)
  • Mathematical Linguistics in Eastern Europe (1968)
  • Introduction to generative language theory; TIT, Bp., 1969 ( Publication series of the Foreign Language Education Committee of the KIC )
  • Sentence-semantic studies (1970)
  • Swedish Morphology (1970)
  • Generative Morphologie des Neufranzösischen (1973)
  • Essays de semantique general (1974)
  • Theory of Assumptions (1982)
  • Hungarian-Swedish handbook (1984)
  • General linguistic aspects of Hungarian language research: academic chair: February 15 , 1988 , Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó (1991)
  • New Hungarian Grammar (co-author, 1997)
  • Theory of Meaning (2000)
  • Verbs, nouns, adjectives. Preliminary studies on the structure of the mental dictionary , Budapest, Tinta Könyvkiadó (2004)
  • Possibility and necessity. Studies in the field of language modality , Budapest, Tinta Könyvkiadó (2005)
  • Hungarian language (ed., 2006)
  • Aspect and quality of action. With special regard to the Hungarian language. Event structure - sentence semantics ; Academic, Bp., 2006
  • Meaning theory ; 2nd expansion, ed. ed .; Corvina, Bp., 2007 (University Library)
  • Twenty years of theoretical linguistics in Budapest. A selection of papers from the 2010 conference celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Theoretical Linguistics Program of Eötvös Loránd University ; ed. Ferenc Kiefer, Zoltán Bánréti; HAS Research Institute for Linguistics – Tinta, Bp., 2012 + DVD (Textbooks for Linguistics)
  • Perspectives on Pragmatics and Philosophy (book excerpt, 2013)
  • Structural Hungarian grammar (ed., 2015)

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