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Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

in the study of Creole languages, was born on 13 June 1933 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His parents were Coleridge Alleyne, a builder and contractor, and Carmen Alleyne, an elementary school teacher. He has two children, Malou Alleyne-Harrison and Trevor Alleyne.

As a young man, Alleyne studied in Port of Spain’s Queen’s Royal College. He was later awarded a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies. This allowed him to complete his B.A. in Spanish and French in Jamaica. Alleyne completed graduate work in linguistic dialectology in France, where he worked at Lyon’s Institut de Linguistique Romane. His doctorat d’Université, the equivalent of a Ph.D., was awarded by the University of Strasbourg.

In 1959 Alleyne returned to Jamaica and began working at the University of the West Indies at Mona as a lecturer in Romance philology and French medieval literature He became one of ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist educator early computer language translator Africanist scholar of Arabic and Berber was born in Wildwood New Jersey to Joseph Henry Applegate and Nancy Berkley Applegate His father was a second generation New Jersey resident whose father was a Native American from Maine Applegate s mother whose father was also Native American migrated from Virginia to Philadelphia where Applegate s parents met around the time of World War I Neither parent had more than an elementary school education Hardworking and ambitious they held high aspirations for their children Applegate and his sister enjoyed the advantages of a small town working class upbringing along with direct contact with black artists and entertainers who frequented the seaside summer boarding house their parents operated in Wildwood New Jersey Although the family was not affluent Applegate s environment was sophisticated and urbane He recalled awakening to the sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ottilie Assing was the eldest daughter of David and Rosa Maria (Varnhagen) Assing. Her mother was an energetic teacher with a flair for singing and storytelling; her father was a well-known doctor who penned poetry and was prone to depression. David, born with the surname of Assur, was raised as an Orthodox Jew but associated with Christians. He and Rosa, who was not Jewish, raised Ottilie and her younger sister, Ludmilla, as "freethinking atheists, as true daughters of the Enlightenment, who saw themselves as members of a universal human race of thought and reason." They saw education as a "secular form of individual salvation."

Assing's life was not always easy; she witnessed savage anti-Jewish riots, and by the age of twenty-three she had lost both parents. In 1842 she and her sister moved from their hometown to live with an uncle Ludmilla adapted ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

linguistics professor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Barbara Ardis Goore, an elementary school teacher and principal, and John Gordon Baugh VI, a director of projects at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. Baugh, the eldest of their three children, had an early fascination with language that grew in part from observing the complexity of linguistic differences around him. In due course Baugh decided to focus on linguistics in part because of experiences derived from a familial move in 1958 to Los Angeles. The Baughs relocated to a working-class, multiethnic neighborhood where many residents were learning English as a second language. He was also influenced by later experiences when the family moved to the western San Fernando Valley in 1960, where they were one of the few African American families in a mainly upper-middle-class, white, affluent community.

While attending Chatsworth High School in suburban Los ...

Article

historian, Egyptologist, educator, and Pan-Africanist, known popularly as “Dr. Ben,” was born in Gondar, Ethiopia, the son of Krstan ben Jochannan, a lawyer and diplomat, and Tulia Matta, a native of Puerto Rico, who was a homemaker and midwife. Both parents were Jewish: his father was a member of a Jewish Ethiopian people then called the “Falasha,” or Beta Israel, and his mother was descended from Spanish Sephardic Jews. The couple met in Madrid, Spain, where Matta was attending college and the elder ben Jochannan was a diplomatic attaché. Soon after their marriage, they traveled from Spain to Ethiopia where their son, Yosef, was born.

Ben Jochannan spent his earliest years in Ethiopia but after age five he was raised in the Americas He said in later interviews that in the 1920s the Ethiopian government sent his father to Brazil to help develop the coffee trade of that country ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

Latinphilologist, school administrator, and educational reformer, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Vincent Henry Bulkley and his wife Madora, freeborn African Americans. He was the couple's firstborn son, and as a child he saw his father make important contributions to the establishment of Claflin University in 1869 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He matriculated at Claflin in 1878 and graduated four years later on 6 June 1882. The school's catalog for the academic year 1881–1882 lists him as the only member of the senior class, and he and Nathaniel Middleton were among the first students that Claflin's college program produced. Prior to graduation he taught Greek, Latin, and German at his alma mater, and from 1886 to 1899 he held the title of professor. He served as secretary of Claflin's faculty in 1895, and from 1896 to 1899 was the school's vice president.

In ...

Article

Bethany K. Dumas

educator and linguist, was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Butler Sr. In 1956 he graduated as the valedictorian from Monroe's Carroll High School, then graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1962 he earned an MA from the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1968 he got his PhD in English from the University of Michigan, where he specialized in linguistics. His doctoral dissertation, “Lexical Usage of Negroes in Northeast Louisiana,” was completed in 1968. It grew from questions addressed in his master's thesis, “The Vocabulary of Negroes in Austin, Texas.” Focusing on seven counties in northeast Louisiana in his dissertation research, Butler interviewed individuals using established questionnaire techniques and demonstrated that black speakers in those communities exhibited coastal southern patterns in their lexical (vocabulary) usage. Such terms as croker sack (rather than tow ...

Article

Linda Spencer

classicist and first African American to teach in the Cleveland, Ohio, secondary schools, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second daughter of Charles Waddell Chesnutt and Susan Chesnutt. Her parents had met while both were teaching at the Howard School in Fayetteville. Her father was a prominent African American novelist, short-story writer, lecturer, and lawyer. His fiction confronted prejudice, disfranchisement, segregation, and American stereotypes and racial mythologies. Her mother was a teacher who became a full-time homemaker after her children were born. Helen's paternal grandparents were free blacks who had emigrated from North Carolina to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1856 and were active in the Underground Railroad Her paternal great grandmothers were of mixed race and probably her paternal great grandfathers were white Helen s father wrote about rejecting passing and the white hypocrisy toward miscegenation She came from a long line of people who worked for integration ...

Article

Martin Tsang

As a second-generation, Cuban-born Afro-Chinese (his father was Chinese and his mother Afro-Cuban), Chuffat Latour’s Chinese heritage originated with the more than 125,000 indentured laborers who arrived on the island between 1847 and 1874, primarily from China’s southeastern Guangdong Province. He was born while both African slavery and Chinese indenture were active in Cuba and, as such, witnessed as well as formed part of the growing Chinese presence on the island. In addition, his generation of Chinese and mixed Chinese Cubans experienced the struggle for independence from Spain (1868–1898), the gradual abolition of slavery (1870–1886), and the US military intervention (1898) and occupation (1899–1902). Like fellow Afro-Chinese Cuban Wifredo Lam (1902–1982), this generation envisioned on a large scale an ethnically homogenizing national identity later theorized as transculturation by Fernando Ortiz.

Being of mixed race Chuffat Latour was positioned in ...

Article

Melvin D. Kennedy

Crogman was born in Philipsburg on Saint Martin, Leeward Islands, on May 5, 1841. Little is known of his first few years except that he was never a slave. He was orphaned at twelve and shortly thereafter was befriended by B. L. Boomer, of a New England shipowning family. Boomer took young Crogman to his home in Middleboro, Massachusetts. In 1855, at the age of fourteen, Crogman began an eleven-year career at sea on one of the Boomer ships. During this period he visited many ports in Europe, India, and South America. These experiences had a profound effect on the keenly observant young man.

With Boomer's encouragement Crogman began preparations in 1866 to secure an education Two years later he entered Pierce Academy in Middleboro He completed with distinction the four year course in English French and bookkeeping in half the time normally required His ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

sailor and classics professor, political activist and first black president of Atlanta's Clark University, was born on St. Martin's in the Caribbean, the son of William Crogman, Sr. and Charlotte Chippendale. A small tropical island in the West Indies' northern Leewards, St. Martin's was occupied jointly by two colonial powers in William Crogman's childhood days, and its sugar plantations had kept slave labor alive. While the French in the North abolished the “peculiar institution” in 1848, the Dutch in the South followed suit only in 1863 Observing slavery intact may have alerted young Crogman to the necessity of serving his race while the reality of at least a partial abolition increased his confidence that even the most adverse circumstances could be overcome However before an ambitious intellectual career catapulted W H Crogman to the top of the African American Talented Tenth he would roam the world ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

classical and modern philologist and university administrator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Mary Ann Fennick Davis (1853–1892) and Prince Nelson Davis (1838–1910). After early training at the Avery Normal Institute in his hometown, Davis matriculated at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation he taught Greek and Latin at the Howard Academy from 1907 to 1911. In June 1911 he earned his M.A. from the department of Latin at the University of Chicago, with a forty-nine-page thesis titled “The Conditional Sentence in Terence” (1911) on the use of the conditional clause in the work of the African-born playwright Terence (fl. 170 bce). After returning to Howard, Davis served as associate professor of Greek and German from 1913 to 1919 and professor from 1919 on. By 1920 he was teaching courses on Demosthenes and Euripides as well as Goethe Lessing ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

was born on 16 May 1927 into a middle-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His father, Montrosier Dejean, was an accountant who served for a time as the nation’s minister of finance, and his mother, Maria Parisot, was a homemaker. After completing his early education in Haiti, Dejean moved to New England, where he studied theology and thereafter entered the priesthood. He later returned to Haiti and served as a parish priest of Port-Salut for almost a decade. There, as the linguist Arthur Spears (2010) notes, Dejean used Haitian Creole with parishioners and translated the four Gospels from Greek into Haitian Creole. These experiences motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in language and linguistics. He earned an M.A. in biblical Hebrew from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 He returned home shortly thereafter but the violence of the François Duvalier regime forced him into exile in Paris five ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean-born Ethiopian linguist, Africanist scholar, and political activist, was born in Asmara, Eritrea. He was fluent in several European and African languages including Italian, French, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, and Tigrinya, his mother tongue. His main area of expertise was linguistics, with particular focus on the Semitic languages of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but his intellectual interest covered a broad spectrum, including history, policy studies, and culture.

Demoz graduated from Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1957 and later studied linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received master’s and PhD degrees in Semitic languages in 1959 and 1964, respectively. Demoz started his professional career at Haile Selassie University, where he taught and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1964 to 1967 He was also a ...

Article

Ethan Michael Key

active in Naqamte, Western Oromia, Ethiopia during the first half of the twentieth century. She is most remembered for being part of an Oromo language translation project in Eritrea, which produced both the Macaafa Qulqulluu (Holy Bible, 1899), translated by Onesimos Nasib, and the Jalqaba Barsiisa (Oromo Spelling Book, 1894), co-authored by Aster and Onesimos.

Born around the year 1870 in the independent Oromo kingdom of Limmu Ennarya in the Gibe River region, Aster was “enslaved by way of reprisal when her people refused to build the king of Limmu a new residence” (Arén 1978: 295–296). In 1886 she was on a ship crossing the Red Sea when the Italian coast guard intercepted liberating the slaves onboard because the Italian government sought to increase its presence in the Red Sea including its future colony of Eritrea After this she went to the Swedish Evangelical Mission at Imkullu ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual, educator, administrator, and interpreter, was born in the Gondar region of northwestern Ethiopia around 1855. He got his first exposure to Western education through the German missionary J. Mayer, who was then resident in Ethiopia. He accompanied Emperor Tewodros II to his final stronghold, Maqdala, where the emperor committed suicide in April 1868 as troops led by the British commander General Robert Napier stormed his fortress. As someone who saw that visionary emperor at close range, Gebru was to continue to harbor an abiding admiration for his idealism. Taken out of the country by the conquering troops, Gebru was patronized by the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was educated in different CMS outposts, including Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Basel (Switzerland).

Returning to his native Ethiopia in 1879 Gebru did missionary work first in Gondar and then after another trip abroad in Wallaga in western ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

professor of ancient Greek, philologist, ordained Methodist minister in the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, and missionary to the Congo, was born in Hephzibah, Georgia, not far from Augusta, to Gabriel and Sarah Gilbert. His parents were field hands, and scholars are not certain whether John was born free or enslaved. Some sources give his birth date as 6 July 1864. As a child he was eager to learn, but he had to mix long hours of farm work with brief periods of school. At last overwhelmed by poverty he was forced to withdraw from the Baptist Seminary in Augusta. After a three-year hiatus from schooling he resumed his work when Dr. George Williams Walker, a Methodist pastor who had come to Augusta to teach in 1884, and Warren A. Candler pastor of Augusta s St John Church offered him assistance With the help ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

Eritrean Tigrinya-language writer, historian, translator, linguist, and professor of African languages, was born and grew up in Yeha, an ancient historical village in Tigray, the northernmost Ethiopian province bordering Eritrea. Yeha is remarkable for its unique and early archaeological sites, as well as for its proximity to and historical connections with the well-known city of Axum, which formed the center of the Axumite kingdom during the reign of the Queen of Sheba, and still remains Ethiopia’s oldest cultural center. Giyorgis is considered one of Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s most important intellectuals; he lived and wrote during the Italian colonial era in Eritrea. He is considered by many the true founder of secular, modern African literature in Tigrinya.

The consciousness of precolonial history evident in Yeha had a lasting influence on Giyorgis s imagination affecting everything he wrote from literature to history Another important influence on Giyorgis s formation as a native ...