North American Scholar

KENT, Roland Grubb

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1877-02-24
  • Born City: Wilmington
  • Born State/Country: DE
  • Parents: Lindley Coates, a lumber merchant & Anna Grubb K.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1952-06-27
  • Death City: Philadelphia
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Married: Gertrude Freeman Hall, 12 July 1904.
  • Education:

    B.A. Swarthmore, 1895; B.L., 1896, M.A., 1898; study at Berlin, 1899-1900, Munich, 1900-1; ASCSA, 1900-2; Ph.D. U. Pennsylvania, 1903; LL.D., 1947.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. Lat. Lower Merion HS (Ardmore, PA), 1896-99; Harrison res. fell, class. U. Pennsylvania, 1903-4; instr. Gk. & Lat., 1904-9; asst. prof, to prof, comp. philol., 1909-42; prof. Indo-Europ. ling., 1942-7; lctr. Sanskr. Bryn Mawr, 1910-14; lctr. Sorbonne, 1925; staff Ling. Inst., 1928, 1929, 1938, 1941, 1942; fell. AAAS, 1934-47; pres. AOS, 1934-35; founder Ling. Soc. Am.; sec.-treas., 1925-40; pres., 1941; Officier d'instruction publique (France), 1926; chevalier Legion d'Honneur (France), 1934.

  • Dissertation:

    "A History of Thessaly from the Earliest Historical Times to the Accession of Philip V of Macedonia" (Pennsylvania, 1903); printed (Lancaster, PA, 1904).

  • Publications:

    "The Date of Aristophanes’ Birth," CR 19 (1905) 153-5; "When Did Aristophanes Die?," CR 20 (1906) 153-5; "The City Gates of Demetrius," AJA 9 (1905) 166-9; "The Time Element in Greek Drama," TAPA 37 (1906) 39-52; "Lucilius on EI and I," AJP 32 (1911) 272-93; Stories from the Far East (New York, 1913); "Again Lucilius on EI and I," AJP 34 (1913) 315-21; "The Vedic Path of the Gods and the Roman Pontifex," CP 8 (1913) 317-26; Folk-Tales of India (Philadelphia, 1916)- "Studies in the Iguvine Tables," CP 15 (1920) 353-69; "The Latin Language in the Fourth Century," TAPA 50 (1919) 91-100; "The Alleged Conflict of the Accents in Latin Verse," TAPA 51 (1920) 19-29; Language and Philology, Our Debt to Greece and Rome (Boston, 1923); "The Oscan Curse of Vibia," CP 20 (1925) 243-67; L'accentuation latine, problèmes et solutions (Paris, 1926); The Textual Criticism of Inscriptions (Philadelphia, 1926); Survey of Linguistic Studies (Baltimore, 1926); W. R. Newbold, The Cipher of Roger Bacon (ed.) (Philadelphia & London, 1928); " 'No Trespass' in Latin Linguistics," Studies Rolfe, 143-61; The Sounds of Latin (Philadelphia, 1932; 2d ed., 1940; 3d ed., 1945); Varro, De Lingua Latina (trans.), LCL, 2 vols. (Cambridge & London, 1938); The Forms of Latin (Baltimore, 1946); Old Persian Grammar: Texts, Lexicon (New Haven, 1950); "Notes on Latin Authors," Studies Robinson, 2:686-92.

  • Notes:

    Roland Grubb Kent was a founder of the Linguistic Society of America and presided at its first meeting on 28 Dec. 1924. With the other two great figures of his time in the field, G. M. Boiling, first editor of Language, the Society's organ, and E. H. Sturtevant, founder of the Linguistic Institute, he helped develop communication among members of his profession, disseminate new scholarship, and promote improved teaching of linguistics. The importance of his contribution to the LSA is at least on a par with that of his scholarship, and that was important indeed. His greatest scholarly work is his grammar of Old Persian, which was the summary of his life's study as an Iranianist. Kent was, however, an accomplished classicist, having taken a classics curriculum (he entered Swarthmore as a 15-year-old sophomore), and studied in Germany under such figures as Wilamowitz, Kirchhoff, Christ, and Furtwangler, in preparation for his study of linguistics, as was then the custom. As Sturtevant chose Hittite, Kent decided on Old Persian, and learned it primarily from Meillet's grammar and Bartholomae's Altiranisches Wörterbuch. As a classicist, he will be remembered for his work on accentuation and pronunciation, on which he lectured at the Sorbonne, and for his Loeb of Varro's De Lingua Latina, the first English translation of that enigmatic work. Such an edition required not only a person of Kent's scholarship and literary sense to perform all the philological tasks necessary, from establishing the text to the translating and annotating of Varro's often fanciful etymologies; it also required a person of forthright bravery as well, for as Joshua Whatmough said, "it takes something more than courage to publish a translation of the De lingua Latina'" (CP 34 [1939] 380). Kent completed a cipher, or ancient personal shorthand, of Roger Bacon, begun by his friend and teacher William R. Newbold. He made a glossary of over 450 errors made by stone cutters.He was an honest and highly productive scholar who held and defended his opinions stoutly but never bitterly in his more than 500 publications (200 of which are reviews). His service to the foundation and advancement of linguistic study in America is something for which every classicist should be grateful.

  • Sources:

    Samuel A. Farmerie, BDAE, 739-40; George S. Lane, Language 29 (1953) 1-13 (with bibliography); NatCAB 47:496-7; NYTimes (28 June 1952) 20; WhAm 3:472; Wilhelm Brandenstein, “Roland Grubb Kent,”Archiv für Orientforschung16 (1952-53) 396; Henry M. Hoenigswald, “Kent, Roland G(rubb),” in Lexicon Grammaticorum. A Bio-Bibliographical Companion to the History of Linguistics I: A-K, 2nd ed., revised and enlarged, (Tübingen, 2009) 800.

    Image: Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 February 1928 p3.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.