A stock photo of New Haven, including Dow Hall and the adjacent Timothy Dwight College.

Edgar H. Sturtevant

Edgar H. Sturtevant was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, the older brother of Alfred Sturtevant. He studied at the University of Chicago receiving there in 1901 a Ph.D. with a dissertation on Latin case forms. He became an assistant professor of classical philology at Columbia University in New York before joining the linguistics faculty at Yale University in 1923. In 1924, he was a member of the organizing committee for the founding, with Leonard Bloomfield and George M. Bolling, of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA).

Besides research on Native American languages and field work on the Modern American English dialects, he is the father of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, first formulated in 1926, based on his seminal work establishing the Indo-European character of Hittite (and the related Anatolian languages), with Hittite exhibiting more archaic traits than the normally reconstructed forms for Proto-Indo-European. He authored the first scientifically acceptable Hittite grammar with a chrestomathy and a glossary, formulated the so-called Sturtevant’s law (doubling of consonants representing IE voiceles stops) and laid the foundations to what later became the Goetze-Wittmann law (spirantization of palatal stops before u as the focal origin of the Centum-Satem isogloss). The 1951 revised edition of his grammar is still useful today, although it was superseded in 2008 by Hoffner and Melchert’s Grammar of the Hittite Language.

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