WHITNEY, William Dwight. Nothampton, Mass. 9.2.1827 (hardly 1828) — New Haven, Conn. 7/8.6.1894. U.S. Indologist. Professor in New Haven. Born in an old Yankee family as the son of a businessman, Josiah Dwight Whitney, and Sarah Williston. Educated in 1842-45 at Williams College (B.A. 1845). In 1845-49 he worked in his father’s bank, in 1849 assistant in Geological Survey with his Geologist brother (Josiah D. Whitney [1819–1896], who had studied Sanskrit in Germany) in the area of Lake Superior. He began Sanskrit studies on his own in 1848 and then studied one year under Salisbury at Yale. In September 1850 he sailed to Bremen and studied three winters at Berlin under Bopp, Weber and Lepsius, and summers 1851 and 1852 at Tübingen under Roth. In 1853 he returned via Paris, Oxford and London (collating Atharvaveda manuscripts) to home. After Salisbury had given up the Indian part of his chair Whitney became in 1854 Professor of Sanskrit at Yale College (soon Yale University) in New Haven, from 1869 also of Comparative Philology, until his death. Until 1869 his salary was rather modest and he had to add it teaching elementary German and French. Married 1856 Elizabeth Wooster Baldwin, in 1856-57 wedding and study trip to France and Italy, had three daughters and three sons. In 1873 member of Hayden expedition to Colorado. In 1875 in England and Germany collecting Atharvaveda materials and in 1878 in Germany working on his Sanskrit grammar. From 1886 on suffered of health problems. Hon. Dr. 1861 (1865?) Breslau, 1868 Williams College, 1874 St. Andrews, 1876 Harvard, 1887 Columbia, 1889 Edinburgh, etc.Correspondent member of several academies (Berlin, Paris, Rome, St.Petersburg, etc.). President of American Oriental Society 1884-90.
Whitney was a linguist and grammarian, who tried to keep a high critical standard. He rejected all fantastic etymologies, but also Pāṇini and Sāyaṇa. Himself as a grammarian he tried to find linguistic usages in literature. His grammar is a lasting work and he did much important work also on the Atharvaveda. Active contributor to the PW. In his times he was much appreciated as a general linguist, too. Among his further interests was Indian astronomy (he edited Burgess’ translation of the Sūryasiddhānta). He was a strict critic, involved in several controversies. I. al. he rejected Biot’s hypothesis of the Chinese origin of the Nakṣatra theory and astronomical dates of the Veda. Among his many students were Avery, Bloomfield, Easton, Edgren, Harper, Haskell, Lanman, and Oertel.
Publications: “Tabellarische Darstellung der gegenseitigen Verhältnisse der Sanhitās des Rik, Sāman, Weissen Yajus und Atharvan”, ISt 2, 1852, 321-368; “Alphabetisches Verzeichniss des Versanfänge der Atharva-Saṁhitā”, ISt 4, 1857, 9-64; “Index Verborum to the Published Text of the Atharva Veda”, JAOS 12, 1881, 1-383.
– “The Main results of the later Vedic Researches in Germany”, JAOS 3, 1853, 289-328; “History of the Vedic Texts”, JAOS 4, 1854, 245-261; “Contributions from the Atharva-Veda to the Theory of Sanskrit Verbal Accent”, JAOS 5, 1856, 385-419; “The translation of the Veda”, North Amer. Review 106, 1868, 515-542.
– Edited with R. Roth: Atharva-veda Sanhita. 6+390 p. B. 1855.
– Edited & transl.: “Atharva-veda prâtiçâkhya, or Câunakîyâ caturâdhyâyikâ. Text, tr. and notes”, JAOS 7, 1862, 233-616; “The Tâittirîya-Prâtiçâkhya. With its commentary the Tribhâshyaratna”, JAOS 9, 1871, 1-469.
– “On the views of Biot and Weber, respecting the relations of the Hindu and Chinese systems of asterisms”, JAOS 8, 1866, 1-94.
– Sanskrit Grammar, including both, the classical language and the older dialects of Veda and Brahmana. 486 p. Bibliothek indogermanischer Grammatiken 2. Boston & Lp. 1879, 2nd ed. 26+552 p. Cambridge, MA & Lp. 1889, 3rd 1896, 5th 551 p. Lp. 1924, German translation by H. Zimmer, Lp. 1879.
– The Roots, Verb-Forms, and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language. 14+250 p. Lp. 1885; repr. 250 p. A.O.S. 30. New Haven 1945, in German 1885.
– “Le prétendu hénothéisme du Véda”, RHR 6, 1882, 129-145.
– Atharva-veda-samhita. Translated into English with critical and exegetical commentary. Revised and ed. by C. R. Lanman. 1-2. 162+1046 p. H.O.S. 7-8. Cambridge, Mass. 1905; translated: “Kaṭha Upanishad”, TAPA 21, 1890, 88-112.
– Numerous articles on Indology and linguistics in JAOS, AJPh, etc., also in American encyclopaedias, then Oriental and Linguistic Studies. 1-2. 7+416+431 p. N.Y. 1873-74 (collected essays); Whitney on Language: Selected Writings of W.D.W. Ed. by M. Silverstein. 45+360 p. Cambridge 1971.
– Language and the Study of Language. 489 p. 1867, Germanby Jolly 1874, Dutch 1877-81; The Life and Growth of Language: An Outline of Linguistic Science. 326 p. N.Y. 1875, German 1876, French 1876, Italian 1876, Dutch 1879, Swedish 1880; Max Müller and the Science of Language. 79 p. 1892.
– Edited: Century Dictionary. An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language. 1889–91.
– Grammars of German (1869), English (1877), and French (1886) for schools.
Sources: *A. Barth, JA 1894 (= Œuvres 4, 1918, 182–187); Buckland, Dictionary; *G.A. Grierson, IA 23, 1894, 263f.; Ch.R. Lanman, *The Whitney memorial meeting: a report. Boston 1897, 7-27 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:1, 426-439); Lanman also in AV transl. xliii–xlvi & bibliography, lvi–lxi; *A.A. Macdonell, JRAS 1894, 610-615; *T.D. Seymour, AJPh 15, 1894, 271-298 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:1, 399-426); Windisch 355–361; *several authors, “The Whitney memorial meeting: a report”, JAOS 19, 1897, 1-155; *IF Anz. 5, 1895, 275-277.
*S.G. Alter, W.D.W. and the Science of Language. Baltimore 2005; M.L. Baym, “W.D.W. and Ernest Renan: The role of Orientalism in Franco-American relations”, JAOS 99, 1979, 225-234; *H.H. Bender, Dict. Am. Biogr. 20, 19??, 166-169; *R. Rocher, “The Past up to the Introduction of Neogrammarian Thought: Whitney and Europe”, H.M. Hoenigswald (ed.), The European Background of American Linguistics. Dordrecht 1979, 5-22; Sengupta 1996, 136-142; *M. Silverstein, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 1007-1009; Staal 1985, 138ff.; Stache-Weiske 2017, 205-210, 569; Walravens & Stache-Weiske 2015, 307f. (with Schiefner’s letters to Wh. 309-316); W.F. Wyatt Jr. in Briggs (ed.), Biogr. Dict. of N. Am. Class. 1994, 703-706; *Nat. Cycl. Am. Biogr. 2, 340 with photo; Wikipedia with photo and some further references. Another photo in Sardesai, further in Wh. Mem. Meeting, again in Leumann 1909, 15 and Pedersen 1959, 20.