Jan Anward, our “Janne”, has left us. Grief and feelings of loss are spreading among conversation and language researchers in Sweden and abroad. It is difficult to comprehend that such a vibrant, creative and empathetic figure has gone.
Janne was born in 1947, and I first met him back in 1968 in Stockholm. Later, we belonged to the Department of Linguistics in Uppsala, led by Sven Öhman. In the middle of the 1980s, Janne moved to the Department of Linguistics in Stockholm. In 1999 we succeeded in persuading him to come to Linköping University, where he was appointed Professor in Language and Culture, and Head of the multidisciplinary research school within this important field. During his several years as Dean, he participated in building the Faculty of Educational Sciences (which, however, could not be called a “faculty” in those days). He retired in 2014. He had then already been affected by the serious illness to which he finally succumbed on Thursday, 28 January 2016.
Janne was a very gifted person, very intelligent with an incredible ability to remember what he had read and learned, provide astute points of view and argue on the most diverse topics, with quick and witty responses. But Janne combined his intelligence with a profound humane sense, a combination that we certainly do not meet so often. He cared about his family, he continually gave his friends and co-workers support and good advice, and he had an empathic capacity to put himself in other people's shoes and understand their problems. In an email I received on the same day as the news of his death, Björn Lindblom writes about Janne: “I think of the conversations I have had with him. Moments of calm euphoria. Sincerity, warmth, vision, focus. A heightened sense of awareness”. It is not difficult to agree.
Janne’s doctoral dissertation (1981) was about Swedish grammar, particularly passive and impersonal constructions. His interest in grammar in spoken language was lifelong, and he formulated a partly original version of functional and dialogic language theory. He was also knowledgable of more distinctly abstract grammars, but regarded them with scepticism (“Glasperlenspiel”). Janne particularly tried to establish a connection between linguistic structures and social functions. He summarized some of his ideas in a book in the end, Doing Language (Linköping, 2015), where he reasons, in his characteristically elaborated analytical language, sometimes seductively simple, sometimes with an almost aphoristic touch, about his dialogical ideas on how language structures and paradigms emerge from the practices and turn taking procedures that participants constantly use, and which thereby provide the rising generation with abundant experience. In this way, Janne’s interest in language learning (cf. Språkbruk och språkutveckling i skolan [Language Use and Language Development in School], 1983) is woven into his reasoning. I myself had the privilege to work with Janne in writing what will probably be his last scientific publication, an article about the concepts of form and substance in the language sciences (hopefully to appear in Acta Linguistica Hafniensia). His ideas will live on.
Janne’s contributions were by no means limited to research. He was of course extremely important to his family. But he also took care of his colleagues and workplaces. When he came to Linköping, he received a leading role at a department that was suffering from many internal conflicts. With firmness, but also great diplomatic skills, he transformed the climate into a harmonious environment. He also made important contributions to the work of building the Faculty of Educational Sciences.
There were many who received Janne’s support and help. Who will give us good advice now?
Per Linell/ 29 January 2016