Tribute to Franklin Horowitz

I met Frank in 1958, when I entered graduate school at Columbia. He had entered about four years earlier and had completed his course requirements by then, and so we weren't in any of the same classes. There was a weekly session when students, faculty, or guests could speak about their research. I think that's when we got to know each other. It was a gradual process.

Frank's specialty was historical linguistics, but he was interested in everything. Everything stuck together and explained everything else. Being a specialist in one subject made him knowledgeable about every other subject. That's the way things should be. In order to learn one thing, you have to learn everything else.

Studying Indo-European languages is a way of understanding how important it is to know many things in order to know one thing. It is not obvious that English snow and French neige are cognates. But if you know that the Polish word for "snow" is snieg, then the relationship between the English and French words becomes clear. I think that Frank may have been the person who told me that there are English words with the sound [n] that have the same meaning as Hebrew words with [l]. English no and Hebrew lo are the most obvious example. English "canine" and Hebrew kelev are another instance. Polish snieg and Hebrew sheleg are a striking instance of a relationship between [l] and [n]. Is this the result of borrowing? Is it evidence of a connection between the Indo-European family and the Afroasiatic family? Is it a coincidence? I don't know.

Frank's interest in everything explains his wonderful sense of humor. He is always discovering connections. The complexity of the world is funny, and Frank knows this better than anybody else. He appreciates the humor implicit in knowledge.

Frank is an extraordinarily kind and good-natured person. His generosity led him to meet his wife, Regina. They were both doing recordings for the blind. Their good deeds introduced them to each other.

Frank and I have been friends for 57 years. I am looking forward to the next 57.

This was read at the 60th annual conference of the International Linguistic Association, on April 24, 2015. Franklin Horowitz was the honoree at the conference.