THOMSEN, Vilhelm Ludwig Peter. Randers 25.1.1842 — Copenhagen 12/13.5.1927. Danish Linguist. Professor in Copenhagen. Son of postmaster, 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. M.A. 1867, Ph.D. 1869 Copenhagen. In 1867 he travelled in Finland, and after Ph.D. in South-Eastern Europe, Italy and France. From 1871 worked as schoolteacher of classical languages. PD 1875 Copenhagen, in Comparative Linguistics. In 1878 applied for the Sanskrit chair, but lost it to Fausbøl. 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 in 1876.
VT 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 i.al. Kök Turkic fragments of Central Asia. In the 1870s he proposed the IE law of palatals. His other interests included Etruscan, Lycian, even Munda (from material procured by the Scandinavian Santal Mission). He was keen to connect linguistics with cultural study. Also wrote on the history of linguistics.
Publications: diss. Den gotiske sprogklasses indflydelse på den finske. Copenhagen 1869.
– The Relation between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia. L. 1877, in German 1879, in Swedish 1882, in Russian 1891; Berøringer mellan de finske of baltiske Sprog. Copenh.: Vid.Selsk. 1890.
– “Bemærkningen om de khervariske (kolariske) Sprogs Stilling”, D. 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”, D. Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1893, 285-302; Inscriptions de l’Orkhon déchiffrées. MSFOu 5. Helsingfors 1896; articles on Old Turkic in Keleti Szemle 1901, SBeAW 1910, JRAS 1912, 182-227, ZDMG 1924, 121-175; Turcica. MSFOu 37. 1916.
– “Études lyciennes”, D. Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1899, 1-76; “Remarques sur la parenté de la langue étruske”, D. Vid. Selsk. Forh. 1899, 378-398.
– “Oldarisk Kultur”, Aage Friis (ed.), Verdenskulturen. 1, 1907, 178-188, also in Swedish.
– Sprogvidenskabens Historie. Copenhagen 1902, tr. Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft. 1927.
– Samlade Afhandlingar. 1-3. 1919-22; 4. 1931.
Sources: *C. Henriksen, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 916f.; *Konow, JRAS 1927, 929ff.; *Pauly, Køb. Univ. 8, 1992, 537f.; *Kr. Sandfeld, Idg. Jb. 13, 1929, 385-392; Kr. Sandfeld, Danske Biogr. Lex. 23, 1942, 591-600; H. H. Schaeder, ZDMG 81, 1927, 278-288; *K. Wulff, Idg. Jb. 8, 1920/21, 257-259; Bibliography in Thomsen Fs. 1912; Wikipedia with photo (another in German version).
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