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Carol Gilson Rosen ’60

August 19, 2019, in Ithaca, New York, from a heart attack.

A native Los Angeleno, Carol studied mathematics at Reed, where she met her husband, David Rosen ’60. Completing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Columbia University, she pursued graduate work in Italian and Romance philology at UC Berkeley and received a PhD in linguistics from Harvard University.

Carol taught at Cornell University from 1978 until her retirement in 2010. In addition to supervising Italian language instruction at the university, she regularly taught historical and comparative Romance linguistics, an old discipline renewed by current theoretical approaches. Her research was based in relational grammar—a framework she helped create—and focused on the Romance language family, especially Italian. Carol sought to build a theory of universal grammar that was free of Anglocentrism, and to discover how to best reveal and explain the regularities that run through the world’s languages.

She was the first American to serve as vice president of the Società di Linguistica Italiana. Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction, coauthored with Ti Alkire (Cambridge University Press, 2010), was among her many publications.

Politically active, with an interest in animals and the environment, Carol succeeded Carl Sagan as faculty advisor to Cornell Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She once got up in the middle of the night to post bail for a student activist and was herself arrested while trying to save Redbud Woods from being turned into a Cornell parking lot.

Carol is survived by her husband, David, and her brother, David Gilson.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2019

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