SAPIR, Edward

SAPIR, Edward. Lauenburg, Pomerania (now Lębork, Poland) 26.1.1884 — New Haven 4.2.1939. U.S. Linguist and Anthropologist. Born in a Lithuanian Orthodox Jewish family, which emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1890, son of Jakob S. Grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and New York. From 1901 studies of Germanic and IE Linguistics at Columbia, graduated B.A. 1904, M.A. 1905. Prompted by his teacher Franz Boas he conducted fieldwork on Indian languages of Washington, Oregon, California and Utah. Ph.D. 1909 Columbia. In 1910-25 Director of Division of Anthropology in Geological Survey of Canada in Ottawa. Then Associate Professor (1926 full Professor) at University of Chicago and from 1931 Sterling Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at Yale. Married around 1910 Florence Delson (d. 1924) and 1926 Jean Victoria McClenaghan, two sons and one daughter with the first and two sons with the second wife.

Sapir’s main field were Amerindian languages, but he was also familiar with IE and Semitic linguistics. As his particular interests Spier lists Uto-Aztecan, Hokan, Nootka, and Athapascan. Beside studying their languages he also defended the civil rights of indigenous peoples.

Publications: Diss. on the Takelma language of Oregon.

– Language. An Introduction to the Study of Speech. N.Y. 1921; many studies on American languages.

– “On the etymology of Sanskrit áśru, Avestan asru, Greek dákru”, Spiegel Mem. Vol. 1908, 156-159.

– “Tibetan Influences on Tocharian, I”, Language 12, 1936, 259-271;“Hebrew ‘Helmet’, a Loanword, and its Bearing on Indo-European Phonology”, JAOS 57, 1937, 73-77; Two IE notes publ. as “From Sapir’s Desk”, Language 15, 1939, 178-187; also wrote on Hittite.

Selected Writings on Language, Culture and Personality. Edited by D. G. Mandelbaum. 16+617 p. Berkeley 1949; The Collected Works of Edward Sapir. 3. Culture. Regna Darnell, Judith T. Irvine and Richard Handler. 1057 p. B. & N.Y. 1999, 4. Ethnology. Ed. by Regna Darnell & Judith Irvine. 963 p. B. – N.Y. 1994.

Sources: *Regna Darnell, E.S. Linguist, Anthropologist, Humanist. 19+480 p. Berkeley 1990; *K. Koerner (ed.), Edward Sapir: Appraisals of His Life and Work. 28+224 p. Amsterdam Studies in Theory and History of Ling. Sc. III:36. Amsterdam & Philadelphia 1984.; L. Spier, Man 39, 1939, 92f.; M. Swadesh, Language 15, 1939, 132-135; C.F. Voegelin, Word Study 27, 1952, 1-3 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:2, 489-492); Wikipedia with photo, bibliography and further references.

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