African Studies


Franz Rottland



Prof. Dr. Franz Rottland died unexpectedly on 4 August 2014.

Franz Rottland's life was shaped by his love for East Africa and his love of languages.

This love began when he went to East Africa with his first wife Margit. He lived, taught and researched there, first in the Republic of Congo from 1965 to 1969, then in Uganda from 1969 to 1972, and again in Kenya from 1979 to 1982. His two sons, Jens and Tom, were born there.

Franz Rottland studied African Linguistics and did a doctorate in the Netherlands, before joining the academic staff of the University of Cologne. After completing his Habilitation, he was subsequently appointed to the Chair of African Linguistics II at the University of Bayreuth, where he remained until his retirement in 1997. Influenced by his love of East Africa and his understanding of the people, his special fields of interest were the Southern Nilotic languages and the Bantu languages of Kenya and Tanzania. The many publications with which he enriched Nilotic and Bantu studies reflect his life-long interest in phonology and his loving attention to detail. His Habilitation thesis, a reconstruction of the Southern Nilotic languages, was published in 1982. Today this book is still the standard reference work for any description of Southern Nilotic languages.

But Franz Rottland was more than just a respected scholar. He was also a dedicated teacher who instilled a love of African linguistics in his students. His lectures and tutorials were a legendary mixture of knowledge transfer and personal education, and he spent much time with his students beyond the set hours, laying the foundations for future scholars.

After his retirement he moved to Tiwi, Kenya, with Christine, his second wife, and there they made a home among the people they felt close to. Franz Rottland had often regretted not being able to give back to the people he met during his field research a little of the kindness that he had received from them. This became possible after his retirement, and so he and his wife founded the Asante e.V. association in Kenya, which has enabled a total of nearly 600 children and young people in Tiwi to attend school without financial worries.

When he fell ill in 2009, the Rottlands decided that it would be better if he went back to Germany. There he spent his last years in peace and contentment. Although Franz Rottland lived very quietly in these years, he did make one journey to Kenya to spend time together with his wife in the country he loved so much.

When Franz fell and broke his shoulder in May this year, a difficult time began for him, with operations and long stays in hospital. He gradually became more and more unhappy. Franz wanted to be at home again, in peace and free from pain. This wish was fulfilled and he fell asleep peacefully on the afternoon of 4 August– with his beloved Süddeutsche Zeitung in front of him and his glasses on his nose.

In Franz Rottland we have lost a uniquely tolerant person. He lived in the present, never in the future and never in the past.

I personally have lost a father and mentor, a special person who has shaped my life. I think of him with unending love and gratitude.

Franz Rottland is survived by his wife Christine, his sons Jens and Tom, his daughters Susanne and Angelika, and his nine grandchildren.

Angelika Mietzner