Ostrava Symposium “Jan Firbas’ Heritage and Future Plans”

On Saturday 11 November, 2006, the Department of English and American Studies of Ostrava University’s Faculty of Arts held a symposium dedicated to the legacy of one of the outstanding figures of both Czech and world linguistics, the distinguished Brno scholar Professor Jan Firbas. Professor Firbas was internationally renowned for his groundbreaking theory of Functional Sentence Perspective, and his contribution to Czech linguistics was immeasurable.

The symposium was attended by all the university professors of the English Language in the Czech Republic (with one abstention): Charles University, Prague (two), Masaryk University, Brno (one), Palacký University, Olomouc (two), and Ostrava University (two), plus a small group of Firbas’ close collaborators from Brno and Prague. Proceedings were chaired by Firbas’ student, colleague and disciple Professor Aleš Svoboda, Head of the Department of English and American Studies at Ostrava.

After an opening address by Eva Mrhačová, the Dean of Ostrava University’s Faculty of Arts, the symposium continued with a short commemoration of Professor Firbas’ life and work. Professor Aleš Svoboda briefly outlined Firbas’ distinguished career, recalling his outstanding qualities both as a scholar and as a man. The delegates jointly agreed on the wording of a letter to be sent to Professor Firbas’ widow Helena, expressing their warmest regards to her and their recognition of the lifelong support she gave to her husband.

The main part of the day’s proceedings turned its attention from the past to the future. Delegates discussed a proposal to publish Professor Firbas’ collected works in a format which would make them easily accessible to researchers and students. Currently, Firbas’ writings are scattered over a large number of different publications, many of which are now very difficult to find. In addition, some of the texts are only available in Czech, cutting them off from a wider readership. The planned project will address these disadvantages by gathering all of Firbas’ works together ‘in one place’ and producing English translations of his entire oeuvre. The publication is scheduled for 2011, in order to mark the 90th anniversary of Firbas’ birth.

The delegates expressed unanimous support for the proposal, and contributed a wide range of constructive suggestions and insights – both of a linguistic and a practical nature. Several participants undertook to carry out various preparatory tasks in order to facilitate the smooth running of the project. At the conclusion of the symposium, the delegates resolved to meet again at an appropriate juncture.

The organisers of the symposium would like to express their thanks and kind regards to all of the delegates.