MEILLET, Paul Jules Antoine

MEILLET, Paul Jules Antoine. Moulins (Allier) 11.11.1866 — Châteaumeillant (Cher) 12.9.1936. French Linguist. Professor in Paris. Son of a notary, spent his childhood in Moulins and Châteaumeillant. After Lycée Banville of Moulins he came to Paris in 1884 intending to became a teacher. After a while at Lycée Louis-le-Grand started 1885 studies at Sorbonne and, attending the teaching of Havet, Darmesteter, Bergaigne and Henry, soon dropped the idea of a teacher’s career and turned to scholarship. He also listened Bréal at Collège de France and Lévi et al. at E.P.H.E. He was deeply influenced by F. de Saussure, and started his own teaching as his deputy. In 1887 visited Armenia studying both spoken language and manuscripts. Ph.D. 1897 Sorbonne. In 1894 he succeeded Darmesteter at E.P.H.E. where he taught Old Iranian and comparative linguistics. In 1899-1900 deputy of Bréal at Collège de France, and in 1902-06 taught Armenian at E.L.O.V. In 1902 second visit to Armenia for study of manuscripts and of living language. In 1905 he succeeded Bréal as Professeur de grammaire comparée at Collège de France (and gave up his chair at E.L.O.V.). In 1927 he retired from E.P.H.E. (successor Benveniste) but for a while continued his teaching there and until his death at Collège de France. His good health was broken in an accident in 1932 and his sight started to deteriorate. In his last years he used a reader in order to continue research and teaching.

AM was a social and popular person with wide knowledge beside his scholarship. He was much interested in art and played piano. His marriage 1916 was a failure. He travelled much in Europe, but never in Asia beyond Armenia. Beside A.I.B.L. (1924) he was member of 19 foreign academies and societies, and had honorary doctorates from Berlin (1910), Padova (1922), Dublin (Trinity College, 1928), Oxford (1928), and Brussels (Université libre 1932). He was very popular as academic teacher. Among his numerous students were Lacôte, Gauthiot, J. Bloch, Ernout, Cuny, M. Cohen, Vendryes, Przyluski, Demiéville, Dumézil, Renou, Chantraine, Benveniste, Minard, M. Lejeune, Willman-Grabowska, Kuryłowicz, Ghate, M. Dillon, R. Fohalle and many well known classical, Romance and Slavic scholars (e.g. the famous Homer scholar Milman Parry).

The life of AM extended over the vigorous growth of IE linguistics in which he himself very actively participated. In his research he always laid main emphasis on comparison, but was also a good scholar of Greek, Iranian and Armenian. His own main languages were Sanskrit, Avestan, Latin, Irish, Church Slavonic, and especially Armenian, but in addition to IE he was also much interested in comparative Romance studies. Even though himself mainly a linguist, he emphasized the importance of philology for understanding the material. He was among the first to understand the importance of phonetics for historical and comparative linguistics. He founded sociological linguistics, gave important contributions in comparative syntax and was much interested in geolinguistics, language contacts and creolisation. Together with Lévi he deciphered Tocharian B. He was very productive author whose bibliography includes 24 books, 540 articles and long reviews and numerous brief notes and reviews.

Publications: diss. I. Recherches sur l’emploi du génitif-accusatif en vieux-slave. 1897; diss. II. De indo-europaea radice *men- “mente agitare”. 1897.

– “Indo-Iranica”, MSL 9, 1896, 365-380; “La déclinaison et l’accent de l’intensité en perse”, JA 1900:1, 254-277; “Persica”, MSL 16, 1910, 306-317; “Observations critiques sur le texte de l’Avesta”, JA 1917:2, 183-214; “Sur le texte de l’Avesta”, JA 1920:1, 187-202; “Notes iraniennes”, MSL 22, 1922, 100-110.

– “De la partie commune des pâdas de 11 et 12 syllabes dans le maṇḍala III du Rigveda”, JA 9:10, 1897, 266-300; “Les nominatifs sanskrits en -ṭ”, IF 18, 1905, 417-421; “Le dieu indo-iranien Mitra”, JA 10:10, 1907, 143-159; “Les consonnes intervocaliques en védique”, IF 31, 1912, 120-125; “Sur le rythme quantitatif de la langue védique”, MSL 21, 1919, 193-217.

Études sur l’étymologie et le vocabulaire du vieux-slave. 1902-05; Le slave commun. 1924, 2nd ed. by Vaillant 1934; with Willman-Grabowska: Grammaire de la langue polonaise. 1921; with Vaillant: Grammaire de la langue serbo-croate. 1924.

Esquisse d’une grammaire comparée de l’arménien classique. 1903, 2nd ed. 1936; Altarmenisches Elementarbuch. 1913.

Introduction à l’étude comparative des langues indo-européennes. 1903, 7th ed. 1934; Les dialectes indo-européennes. 1908, 2nd ed. 1922.

De quelques innovations de la déclinaison latine. 1906; Aperçu d’une histoire de la langue grecque. 1913, 4th ed. 1935; Les origines indo-européennes des mètres grecs. 1923; La méthode comparative en linguistique historique. 8+116 p. Oslo 1925; Esquisse d’une histoire de la langue latine. 1928, 3rd ed. 1933; with Vendryes: Traité de grammaire comparée des langues classiques. 1925, 2nd ed. 1927; with Ernout: Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine. 1932.

– “Remarques linguistiques”, JA 1911:1, 449-464; “Les noms de nombre en tokharien B”, MSL 17, 1912, 281-294; with Lévi: “Remarques sur les formes grammaticales de quelques textes en tokharien B”, MSL 17, 1912, 1-33, 18, 1913, 381-423 & 19, 1915, 158-162.

Grammaire du vieux-perse. 1915, 2nd rev. & enl. ed. by E. Benveniste. 34+266 p. Coll. linguistique 34. P. 1931.

Caractères généraux des langues germaniques. 1917, 4th ed. 1930; Les langues dans l’Europe nouvelle. 1918, 2nd ed. 1928; La méthode comparative en linguistique historique. 1925.

with M. Cohen: Les langues du monde. 16+811 p. 18 maps. Coll. linguistique 16. P. 1924.

Trois conférences sur les Gâthâs de l’Avesta. 72 p. P. 1925.

numerous articles in MSL, BSL, RPh, JA, Banaser, IF, Scientia, REA, RESI, CRAI etc., a selection publ. as: Linguistique historique et linguistique générale. 1-2. 1921-36

Sources: *G. Bergounioux & Ch. de Lamberterie, Meillet aujourd’hui. Louvain & P. 2006; *G. Jucquois, “La théorie de la racine chez A.M.”, Le Muséon 85, 1972, 281-287; *A. Merlin, CRAI 1952, 572-683; A. Montaut, D.O.L.F. 672f.; *P. Swiggers, Lex. gramm. 1996, 622-624; J. Vendryes, BSL 38, 1937, 1-42, with photo and bibliography by Benveniste, 43-68; Wikipedia with photo (more in French version).

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