AALTO, Pentti. Pori 22.7.1917 — Helsinki 30.11.1998. Finnish Classical Scholar, Linguist, Altaist and Indologist. Son of shop assistant Martti Johannes A. and Martta Elisabeth Lindroos. Matriculation from Porin lyseo in 1935, then studies of comparative, oriental and classical philology at Helsinki University: M.A. 1939, Lic. Phil. 1949, Ph.D. 1949. During WW II served in army intelligence in cipher department, after war further studies at Uppsala. In Sanskrit his teachers were Biese, Pavolini and Helmer Smith. Docent 1949-58 and eo. Professor of Comparative Linguistics at Helsinki from 1958, retired in 1980. Taught Sanskrit, MIA, Old and Middle Iranian, Armenian, Old Irish, IE, Tibetan, Turkish and Mongolian languages and wrote studies on most of them. Married in 1953 pharmacist Pirkko Marjatta Sipilä, two sons.
Aalto was primarily a comparative linguist and philologist, who mainly worked on classical languages and on groups commonly styled as “Altaic”. A number of studies he has also devoted to Buddhist texts in various versions (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, Old Turcic). A third interest was the decipherment of unknown scripts (during the war he served in Finnish general staff as a cryptographist), and a fourth the history of oriental and linguistic scholarship. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he participated in the Finnish group attempting the decipherment of the Indus script. Among his students were Carl Gustav Hartman, Tuomo Pekkanen, Asko Parpola, Pertti Valtonen, Harry Halén, Klaus Karttunen, and Bertil Tikkanen.
Publications: Dissertation on Latin 1949 (Untersuchungen über das lateinische Gerundium und Gerundivum. 193 p. A.A.S.F. B62:2) and a study on Greek 1953 (Studien zur Geschichte des Infinitivs im Griechischen. 116 p. A.A.S.F. B80:2); great number of articles in various journals on general, IE and Altaic linguistics, on Mongolian, on decipherment of unknown scripts, etymology, history of learning, etc., popular articles in Finnish. Edited several posthumous works of G. J. Ramstedt (on Altaic and Corean) and some of Gustav Schmidt (on Caucasian).
– Qutuγ-tu Pañcarakṣā kemekü Tabun Sakiyan neretü yeke kölgen sudur. Nach dem Stockholmer Xylograph 15.1.699. Mit einem Faksimile der Leningrader Handschrift MS Ž 130. 211 p. As. Forsch. 10. Wb. 1961.
– “Prolegomena to an edition of the Pañcarakṣā”, StOr 19:12, 1954 (48 p.); “Zum Āṭavakāvadāna (Türkische Turfan-Texte X)”, StOr 28:13, 1964 (14 p.); “Conditionals in Buddhist Sanskrit”, D. Sinor (ed.), Raghu Vira Mem. Vol. 1968, 1-9; “On the role of Central Asia in the spread of Indian cultural influence”, India’s contribution to world thought and culture. Madras 1970, 249-262; “On the Mongol translations of Buddhist texts”, Studies in Indo-Asian art and cultures 1, N.D. 1972, 21-26; “Sanskrit and Mongol language and literature”, Studies in Indo-Asian art and cultures 2, N.D. 1973, 1-13; “From Sanskrit into Mongolian”, N. Simonsson Vol. Oslo 1986, 1-11.
– “Madyam apeyam”, C. Vogel (ed.), Jñānamuktāvalī. Comm. Vol. J. Nobel. 1959/63, 17-37; “The original home of the Indo-European peoples”, Proc. Finnish Acad. Sc. 1963, 97-113; “Zur Mystik des Brahmanismus-Hinduismus”, Mysticism. Scripta Inst. Donneriani Aboensis 5, 1970, 200-205; “Connections between Finnish and Aryan mythology”, ALB 39, 1975, 110-128; “On the absolute instrumental in Sanskrit”, IT 7, 1979, 47-55; “Kautilya on siegecraft”, Fs, Biese. AASF B 223, Helsinki 1983, 11-21.
– “The alleged affinity of Dravidian and Fenno-Ugrian”, Proc. of the 2nd Tamil Conf. 1, Madras 1971, 262-266; “Marginal notes on the Meluhha problem”, K. A. Nilakanta Sastri Fel. Vol. Madras 1971, 234-238; “Deciphering the Indus script, methods and results”, Księga pamiątkowa ku czci Eugeniusza Słuszkiewicza. Warsaw 1974, 21-27; “Indus script and Dravidian”, StOr 55, 1984, 411-426.
– With T. Pekkanen: Latin sources on North-Eastern Eurasia. 1–2. 267+305 p. As. Forsch. 44 & 57. Wb. 1975–80.
– Histories of Oriental (1971), Classical (1980) and Modern Language studies (1987) in the series The History of Learning and Science in Finland 1828–1918, vol. 10:1-3 (174+210+248 p.).
– Studies in Altaic and Comparative Philology. A Collection of Professor Pentti Aalto’s Essays in Honour of His 70th Birthday. 265 p. St. Or. 59. H. 1987.
Sources: Personal knowledge since 1971; H. Halén, StOr 85, 1999, v-vii; K. Karttunen, “Pentti Aalto in his aspect as Indologist”, Anantaṁ śāstram. Fs. B. Tikkanen. StOr 108, 2010, 103-110; A. Parpola, Acad. Scient. Fenn. Yearbook 1998, 77-81 (in Finnish, with English summary); A. Parpola, Kansallisbiografia 1, 2003, 28f.; Helsingin Yliopisto: Opettajat ja virkamiehet 1939–1968. Porvoo — Helsinki — Juva 1977, 1 (photo); Studia Orientalia Pentti Aalto sexagenario dedicata Anno 1977 Collegae Discipuli Amici. StOr 47. Helsinki 1977 (with photo and bibliography by H. Halén, supplement in StOr 59 above); briefly in Wikipedia.
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