North American Scholar

STURTEVANT, Edgar Howard

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1875-03-07
  • Born City: Jacksonville
  • Born State/Country: IL
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1952-07-02
  • Death City: Branford
  • Death State/Country: CT
  • Married: Bessie Fitch Skinner, 11 July 1903.
  • Education:

    Study at Illinois Coll., 1893-5; A.B. Indiana U., 1898; LL.D., 1940; Ph.D. U. Chicago, 1901; L.H.D. Illinois Coll., 1929; LL.D. U. Chicago, 1941.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. Lat. Indiana U., 1901-2; actng. prof. Gk. Maryville (TN) Coll., 1902-3; actng. asst. prof. Lat. U. Missouri, 1903-5; Indiana U., 1905-7; instr. class, to asst. prof, philol. Columbia, 1907-20; clerk, Irvine Nat. Bank (New York), 1920-3; asst. prof. Gk. Yale, 1923-6; asso. prof, to prof, ling., 1926-43; pres. AOS, 1936-7; Ling. Soc. Am., 1931; mem. APhS.

  • Dissertation:

    "Contraction in the Case Forms of the Latin io- and -iâ Stems and of deus, is, and idem" (Chicago, 1902); printed (Chicago, 1902).

  • Publications:

    "Some Unfamiliar Uses of idem and isdem in Latin Inscriptions," CP 2 (1907) 313-24; "Studies in Greek Noun-Formation," CP 5 (1910) 323-56; "Notes on Juvenal," AJP 32 (1911) 322-7; "Γυμνός and Nudus," AJP 33 (1912) 324-9; P. Terenti Afri Andria (New York, 1914); Linguistic Change (Chicago, 1917); "The Coincidence of Accent and Ictus in Plautus and Terence," CP 14 (1919) 234-44; "The Coincidence of Accent and Ictus in the Roman Dactylic Poets," CP 14 (1919) 373-85; The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, the Sounds and Accents (Chicago, 1920; 2d ed., Philadelphia, 1940); "Word Ends and Pauses in the Hexameter," AJP 42 (1921) 289-308; "The Ictus of Classical Verse," AJP 44 (1923) 319-38; "The Doctrine of Caesura: A Philological Ghost," AJP 45 (1924) 329-50; T. Macci Plauti Mostellaria (New Haven, 1925); "Centaurs and Macedonian Kings," CP 21 (1926) 235-49; "On the Position of Hittite among the Indo-European Languages," Language 2 (1926) 25-34; "Notes on Plautus' Mostellaria," AJP 48 (1927) 344-9; "Indie Speech and Religion in Western Asia," YCS 1 (1928) 209-28; A Hittite Glossary (Baltimore, 1931; 2d ed., Philadelphia, 1936); T. Macci Plauti Pseudolus, with Frank E. Brown, Frederick W. Schaefer, & John P. Showerman (New Haven, 1932); A Comparative Grammar of the Hittite Language (Philadelphia, 1933; 2d ed., New Haven, 1951); A Hittite Text on the Duties of Priests and Temple Servants (Philadelphia, 1934); A Hittite Chrestomathy, with George Bechtel (Philadelphia, 1935); "Greek Adjectives in -αιος from Indo-European -ehyos," CP 36 (1941) 356-64; The Indo-Hittite Laryngeals (Baltimore, 1942); Introduction to Linguistic Science (New Haven, 1947).

  • Notes:

    Edgar Sturtevant is best known and remembered for his years at Yale. He studied at Chicago with Carl Darling Buck, and then taught at various institutions, including Columbia, as a member of a department of classics. He cannot have fit very comfortably. Linguistics was scorned by Shorey and disparaged by many others, with the result that in 1920, at the age of 45, he was let go from Columbia. Fortunately after a three-year hiatus he landed at Yale and remained there for the rest of his life.Sturtevant's early and unfortunate experience as a linguist among classicists affected his career in a positive way, both organizationally and in his scholarship. He was (with Leonard Bloomfield and George Melville Boiling) one of the Signers of the Call, which led to the formation of the Linguistic Society of America, of which he was president in 1931. In 1928 Sturtevant initiated the first Linguistic Institute at Yale, and Linguistic Institutes have continued in conjunction with the LSA to the present day, introducing many a neophyte to the field and its most distinguished practitioners. Yale became the leading institution in the country in linguistics in the two decades following Sturtevant's appointment and through his influence and energy.Sturtevant's work in classics is best represented by The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, a thorough and convincing work of scholarship admirable for its clarity of exposition. It remained standard for many years, and is still useful. His Linguistic Change of 1917 can still be read for pleasure and profit, and is useful for its treatment of lapses in speech which Sturtevant felt were often responsible for many kinds of changes in language often attributed to more metaphysical causes. This work was later revised as An Introduction to Linguistic Science, and as such, after having served its pedagogical purpose, is now out of date. In it he stated "language must have been invented for the purpose of lying" (48).It is with Hittite and its relation to the other Indo-European languages that Sturtevant's work is best observed. He enthusiastically embarked on the study of this language, and produced a large number of important articles during the 1930s. His enthusiasm and energy produced many basic tools of research, but carried him too far, in that he developed the view that Hittite is a sister language of Indo-European and not an early offshoot of it. Sturtevant attempted a comparative grammar of this reconstructed language, but neither this work nor his theory have gained wide acceptance. He also eagerly embraced the laryngeal theory of Indo-European phonology first adumbrated by de Saussure in 1879 and later developed by Jerzy Kuylowicz (at Yale with Sturtevant in 1927), finding evidence for laryngeals in Hittite. His Indo-Hittite Laryngeals of 1942, though controversial at the time and suffering from excessive zeal in determining the laryngeals' phonetic nature, was nonetheless important in the wide acceptance that theory enjoys today.Sturtevant's influence was considerable, and he attracted strong personal reactions, most notably in E. Adelaide Hahn, who worshipped him, and J. Whatmough, who disliked him intensely. His work remains basic to the study of Hittite, though of course it is now obsolete in many respects.

  • Sources:

    Murray Barnson Emeneau, APhS Yearbook (1952) 339-43; E. Adelaide Hahn, Language 28 (1952) 417-34; NYTimes (2 July 1952) 25; Sch.& Soc. 76 (12 July 1952) 30; WhAm 5:704; Wilson Lib. Bull. 27 (Sept. 1952) 28.

  • Author: William F. Wyatt, Jr.