Passings: Dorin Uritescu


The following tribute was written in collaboration by Professor Sheila Embleton, Professor Philippe Bourdin, Professor Sylvie J. Rosienski-Pellerin and Adjunct Professor Eric Wheeler.

Glendon College’s Department of French Studies and Programme in Linguistics and Language Studies are mourning the passing of Professor Dorin Uritescu, who died on April 15.

Dorin Uritescu
Dorin Uritescu

Prof. Uritescu is remembered by colleagues as a wonderful linguist, a passionate teacher and, for many, a friend. And what a friend he was. He was admired by all those who knew him for his erudition, his sense of ethics and justice, his humility and his thoughtfulness.

Methodical and tireless in his work, Prof. Uritescu was a humanist in the truest sense of the term – a man of great culture and exceptional depth of thought and feeling, an educator whose brilliance and graciousness were such as to leave a lasting mark on colleagues and students alike. He changed them for the better, as he did universities generally, institutions whose vitality and centrality he always strove to uphold. While he had a special fondness for his Romanian fieldwork in the mountains of Transylvania and Crișana, he also knew how to engage in authentic collaboration with colleagues working within theoretical frameworks different than his own – a talent as precious as it is rare.

His contribution to the Glendon community and to York University mirrored his personality: generous, positive and wise. It was made in equal measure of rigour and determination. He was unwavering in his dedication to the Linguistics Programme, where he was coordinator, and the Department of French Studies, where he was Chair. Prof. Uritescu also co-founded the Centre for Research on Language and Culture Contact, and created the lectureship in Romanian Language and Culture, unique among Canadian universities, for whose creation we are all especially indebted to him.

Prof. Uritescu’s career began in 1977 at the University of Timișoara, where he taught until 1989, with an interruption between 1982 and 1984, when he was visiting professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. Arriving in Toronto in 1991, he taught at Glendon and the Faculty of Arts, before accepting a tenure-track position at Glendon in 2000 and eventually being promoted to the rank of full professor in 2004. He held two doctoral degrees: one from the University of Timișoara, in 1978, and the other from the Sorbonne (Paris III/Sorbonne-Nouvelle), which he obtained in 1994, with the equivalent of summa cum laude. In 1998, he was awarded a prize from the Romanian Academy in recognition of the first volume of his New Romanian Linguistic Atlast: Crisana. Also, Aurel Vlaicu University, in Arad, awarded him the title of honorary professor in 2001.

His masterwork is undeniably the New Romanian Linguistic Atlas: Crișana, with the first four volumes published and the fifth  close to completion, a task now entrusted to his collaborators at the University of Cluj-Napoca. One need go no further than Glendon’s library to behold the monument that is the Atlas – the result of meticulous field research that he conducted primarily himself for the first 15 years before taking on a supervisory role. Drawn in Chinese ink, each map is a work of art. But the Atlas has also delineated new frontiers in technological innovation in dialectology: with the help of Professor Sheila Embleton and Adjunct Professor Eric Wheeler, Prof. Uritescu dedicated the last years of his life to digitizing it in its entirety, proving himself a true pioneer in his field once again.

Not content with the Atlas, which itself would unquestionably have secured his international stature as a scholar, Prof. Uritescu authored three books and co-authored two more. His list of printed publications includes more than 60 articles and 26 book chapters, authored and co-authored. He enjoyed such recognition as a linguist that it is an afterthought to mention that he received two Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Standard Research Grants (2003-08 and 2008-12) and two SSHRC Insight Grants (2012-16 and 2019-24).

Prof. Uritescu owed his ability to produce such a wealth of scientific work to his deep knowledge of Romanian and French and, more broadly, Romance languages, both from a synchronic and diachronic perspective. He owed it to the breadth and depth of his theoretical knowledge, which was profoundly rooted in the European structuralist tradition and spanned the fields of phonology and morphology, Romance linguistics, historical linguistics, language typology, dialectology and geolinguistic variation. He owed it to his steadfast respect for facts and to his distaste for approximation. Finally, he owed it to the exceptional fecundity of his mind, which was evident to all those who knew him and who worked alongside him over the course of his long, yet too soon interrupted, career.

Glendon College and York University have lost a great intellectual and an incomparable teacher.