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September 17, 2005


John Lawler

I'm not surprised that these sources wouldn't've mentioned Emeneau. He's mostly known as a Sanskritist and secondarily as an Indianist. It used to be (like when I started grad school in 1964, a little after Arnold) that linguists naturally learned a little Sanskrit (asid raja, Nalo nama, virasena suto bali), and the very first book one encountered was Emeneau's 'Sanskrit, Sandhi, and Exercises', which Arnold mentioned. He calls it an 'elegant pamphlet', if memory serves, and he's right. It was designed to familiarize students with the particular variety of fusional phonology enshrined in Sanskrit spelling, so we could hack through the jungle of terminations to get to the root, and incidentally learn one hell of a lot about phonology, almost painlessly.

Other than that, I don't know anything about Emeneau, and I was also surprised to see he was still alive at 101.

BTW, I found this post on Bloogle, which now indexes blogs, by searching for 'linguistics'.

language hat

The aforementioned history books are disposed towards syntax..., and their coverage of early linguists focuses -- at least so far as the twentieth century is concerned -- on those who bore most directly on Chomsky and his program

And people wonder why those of us who have not drunk the kool-aid have such a loathing for the Chomskyan revolution. Go read a Soviet history textbook; the attitude towards the past is, mutatis mutandis, pretty similar.


I find myself wondering about the name "Emeneau". It looks French, but what is its provenance? And I suppose it is pronounced as if one is reciting a fragment of the alphabet: "M. N. O.". Just the sort of pseudonym a linguist would adopt, if linguists were given to the adoption of pseudonyms.

Does anybody know anything more about the name?

Semantic Compositions

From Berkeley's obit:

Prof. Emeneau's family history illuminates his life; this history began 350 years ago amidst the Anglo-French wars in Europe and the New World. Expelling the Acadians on their North American odyssey, the British colonial authorities in Nova Scotia arranged to import Protestants of various nationalities. So it was, sailing in 1752 on the Speedwell out of Rotterdam, that Samuel Emoneau and his son Frederick brought their families to Halifax from the Payée de Montbéliard, then a francophone Lutheran principality and now a part of France. In the following year, together with other Montbéliardians and English, German, and Swiss Protestants, the Emoneaus were among the founding settlers of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. French may have fallen out of use by the early nineteenth century, but German was still used in public as late as 1888 in Lunenburg.

You're right, though -- it does sound like a linguist's pseudonym. I hope The Tensor won't be too annoyed with me for suddenly thinking that if I ever wanted to pose as an Armenian linguist, I would adopt the pseudonym Abecedarian.

William E. Blum

I'm a little late with this comment, but I just found the post by accident. I took a year of Sanskrit from Prof. Emeneau in 1964, and nearly wore out the little book on sandhi, which I think I still have. That was enlightening. His image remains in my mind to this day.


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