Language, Culture, and Communication

Language, Culture, and Communication

Language, Culture, and Communication

Language, Culture, and Communication

Excerpt

Joseph Harold Greenberg was born in 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. He showed early interest in language studies and started learning Hebrew, Latin and German at school and Greek and a few other languages on his own. As an undergraduate at Columbia College, he attended the linguistic seminars of Franz Boas. His parents expected him to develop his musical talent and perhaps become a pianist, but young Greenberg had made his own plans: he wanted to devote his life to medieval history, a field in which he thought his natural interest in languages could be turned to best advantage.

As so often, the outcome was decided by chance. A conversation between Greenberg and his anthropology teacher, Alexander Lesser, led to his being recommended by Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict for a SSRC predoctoral fellowship in Anthropology. He went to Northwestern University, where he came in close contact with Melville J. Herskovits, the great pioneer of African studies. Northwestern, however, did not have the facilities for linguistic education that Greenberg needed. He therefore spent a year at Yale University studying with Leonard Bloomfield, Edward Sapir, Bernard Bloch and other linguists and linguistic anthropologists. After a year's field work in West Africa, he returned and received a Ph. D. in anthropology from Northwestern. He then returned to Yale for a few months to continue his linguistic studies.

Greenberg's long list of publications, begun in 1940 with an article for the Journal of Negro History, was interrupted by his army service during World War II. In 1946, he was able to publish his monograph, The Influence of Islam on a Sudanese Religion. The same year he started teaching at the University of Minnesota. In 1948 he moved to Columbia University, where he worked for fourteen years. He joined Stanford University in 1962, Here, in addition . . .

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