THOMSEN, Vilhelm

THOMSEN, Vilhelm Ludvig Peter. Sanders (?) 25.1.1842 — Copenhagen 12/13.5.1927. Danish Linguist. Professor in Copenhagen. Son of postmaster Ludvig Frederik Th. and Elise Schlegel. According to Sandfeld 1942 he was born in Copenhagen, but went school in Randers. Matriculated in 1859 from Randers Latin School. Studied at Copenhagen theology, but soon concentrated on languages: Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Scandinavian, Slavic, and Finnish. In 1864 voluntary in war against Prussia. M.A. 1867, Ph.D. 1869 Copenhagen. In 1867 he travelled in Finland and St.Petersburg, and after Ph.D. in South-Eastern Europe (Austro-Hungarian Empire), Italy and France. From 1871 worked as schoolteacher of classical languages. PD 1875 Copenhagen, in Comparative Linguistics (acc. to Smith 1871). In 1878 applied for the Sanskrit chair, but lost it to Fausbøll. From 1887 ord. Professor of Comparative Linguistics (sammenlignende Sprog­videnskab) at Copenhagen. Emeritus 1913, went on teaching till 1916. From 1876 member of Videnskabernes Selskab, 1909 its Chairman. Married 1876 Karen Charlotte Allen, one daughter and one son.

Thomsen was a many-sided and skilled linguist: familiar with Germanic and Romance, spoke perfect Russian, and was a competent Graecist. From the Finno-Ugric studies of his early years he moved mainly to Turcology, led by his famous decipherment (1893) of the Runic Turki inscriptions of Orkhon and Jenissei. Later he studied Kök Turkic fragments of Central Asia. In the 1870s he proposed the IE law of palatals. His other interests included Etruscan, Lycian, even Muṇḍa(from material procured by the Scandinavian Santal Mission). In 1892 he tried to connect Muṇḍa with Australian languages. He was keen to connect linguistics with cultural study. He opened completely new lines of research, but remained critical and avoided bold hypotheses. Also wrote on the history of linguistics.

Publications: Diss. Den gotiske sprogklasses indflydelse på den finske. 2+166 p. Copenhagen 1869, German translation by Sievers, Über den Einfluß der germanischen Sprachen auf die finnisch-lappischen. Halle 1870.

The Relation between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia. 8+150 p. L. 1877, in German 1879, in Swedish 1882, in Russian 1891; Berøringer mellan de finske of baltiske Sprog. 308 p. Copenh.: Vid.Selsk. 1893, German version in Saml. Afh. 4, 1931, 1-530.

– “Bemærkningen om de khervariske (kolariske) Sprogs Stilling”, Danske Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1892, 231-239; “Nogle Bem. om Santhalsproget”, Den Norske Santhal­missions Festskrift 1892, 104-110.

– “Déchiffrement des inscriptions de l’Orkhon et de l’Iénisséi. Notice préliminaire”, Danske Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1893, 285-302; Inscriptions de l’Orkhon déchiffrées. 224 p. MSFOu 5. Helsingfors 1896; articles on Old Turkic in Keleti Szemle 1901, SBeAW 1910, JRAS 1912, 182-227, ZDMG 1924, 121-175; Turcica. 108 p. MSFOu 37. Helsingfors 1916.

– “Études lyciennes”, Danske Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1899, 1-76; “Remarques sur la parenté de la langue étruske”, Danske Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1899, 378-398; articles on Romance and Danish linguistics, etc.

– “Oldarisk Kultur”, Aage Friis (ed.), Verdenskulturen. 1, 1907, 178-188, also in Swedish.

Sprogvidenskabens Historie, en korfattet Fremstilling. 108 p. Copenhagen 1902, transl. Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft. 1927.

Samlade Afhandlingar. 1-3. Copenhagen & Kristiania 1919-22; 4. 1931.

Sources: *V. Brøndal, Acta Philol. Scand. 2, 1927-28, 289-318 *C. Henriksen, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 916f.; *Hovdhaugen et al. 2000, 167f., 179; *Konow, JRAS 1927, 929ff.; *A. Meillet, “Un grand linguiste danois: V.T.”, Revue des Deux Mondes 7, 1922, 688-696 (again in *Meillet’s Linguistique hist. et ling. générale. 2, 1936, 184-193); *Pauly, Køb. Univ. 8, 1992, 537f.; *Kr. Sandfeld et al., Danske Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1926-27, 87-135; *Kr. Sandfeld, Idg. Jb. 13, 1929, 385-392 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:1, 496-503) and Danske Biogr. Lex. 23, 1942, 591-600; H. H. Schaeder, ZDMG 81, 1927, 278-288; *K. Wulff, Idg. Jb. 8, 1920/21, 257-259 and *Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi 46, 1930, 81-104; bibliography in Thomsen Fs. 1912; Wikipedia with photo (another in German version); photo in Pedersen 1959, 198.

R. Schmitt, Ernst Kuhn und Vilhelms Thomsen. Aspekte ihres Forschens in Spiegel ihrer Korrespondenz. Hist.-filol. Medd. 61. Copenhagen 1990 (8 letters by EK and 4 by VT, with intr. and notes).

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