NURMEKUND, Pent. Kilingi near Pärnu 16.12.1906 — Tartu 26.12.1996. Estonian Linguist, Polyglot and Oriental Scholar, specialized in Chinese and Indian languages and literatures. Born in a poor family as son of an agrarian worker he could only proceed slowly with his studies and matriculated in 1928 from Viljandi Gymnasium. After military service he started studies at Tartu in 1930. Studied Semitic, Fenno-Ugric and European languages, IE linguistics (under Kieckers), etc., but his special interest were already then the Far Eastern languages. In 1933-34 three semesters at Copenhagen under L. Hjelmslev et al. He concentrated now on Romance linguistics, but also started Africanistics, Eskimo and Turcology. In order to finance his studies he worked as seaman (as a foreigner he was not allowed in Denmark to work in land). In 1935 went to France as seaman and worked in a farm in Normandy, then a brief period at Gothenburg University in Sweden. Mag.fil. 1935 Tartu, with a thesis on the syntax of Old French. He obtained Alexander von Humboldt scholarship and worked at Berlin and Munich universities. In 1938 further studies of Romanistics (but also of Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and Bengali) in Paris. Caught by war in France he succeeded with difficulty to return to Estonia and to Tartu University. Arrested after the war he could only resume his teaching and research at Tartu in 1955, now mainly concentrating on Asian and African studies. Kand. 1968, Docent 1976. He was said to have known at least 50 languages.
Publications: At least 60 publications, on India e.g. in Keel ja kirjandus 10, 1961, 629 and Emekeele seltsi Aastaraamat 9, 1963, 54-62.
Sources: Miliband 1995; A. M. Pjatigorskij in NAA 1965:2, 187f. (with photo); Wikipedia with photo (little more in Estonian Vikipeedia with further Estonian references; another photo in Keel, mida me harime. Tallinn 1976.
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