Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Carl Friedrich Hoffmann (1925-2007)

Academic journal article Studies in African Linguistics

Carl Friedrich Hoffmann (1925-2007)

Article excerpt

Carl Hoffmann was a leading German Chadicist and Africanist, who was influential in the foundations of the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages of the University of Ibadan between 1962 and 1978, and who was instrumental in establishing African Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth between 1980 and 1990. Students from Africa as much as from Germany and elsewhere cherish his memory as an impeccable scholar and devoted teacher.

Born into a working class background in Hamburg, he always remained conscientious about his roots. Since early in life, Carl was almost obsessed by the structural diversity and complexity of human languages. While still in High School, he attended classes in Hamburg (1941-43) taught by the leading Africanists of the time: Swahili and Zulu with Ernst Dammann, Hausa with Johannes Lukas, Somali with August Klingenheben, Egyptian and Berber with Ernst Zyhlarz. Two years of conscripted (para-)military services in 1943 did not stop his linguistic interests, particularly after he was wounded in 1944 and was put into a military hospital.

While finishing his PhD thesis, Carl became institutionally associated with his thesis supervisor Johannes Lukas at the University of Hamburg. Subsequently he worked as a Research Fellow of the International Africa Institute, London, and collected data on several Central Chadic languages. After the cooperation with his former mentor Johannes Lukas and the University of Hamburg was unhappily disrupted, Carl joined the Ibadan-based West African Languages Survey team in Nigeria, teaming up with the late Professor Robert Armstrong, and doing linguistic fieldwork on Benue-Congo ("Plateau") languages. Carl was offered a Lecturer position at the University of Ibadan in 1962 and he became Professor in 1966. In Ibadan he teamed up with such eminent scholars as Professors Ayo Bamgbose and the late Kay Williamson, producing excellent young Nigerian scholars like Professor Ben Elugbe, to single out just one. He served periodically as Head of Department and as (co-)editor of the Journal of West African Languages (1964-78). After retirement from Ibadan in 1978, Carl returned to Germany and renewed contact with the University of Hamburg, where a young generation of Africanists had long since networked with him after Johannes Lukas had retired in 1970, particularly in the fields of Chadic and Benue-Congo linguistics. Carl also established close contact with the Dept. …

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