The Warren Cowgill student fellowship

Press release on the 2nd from the Linguistic Society of America, “New Diversity Fellowship Established in Honor of Warren Cowgill”, beginning:

The LSA is delighted to announce that the family of deceased (1985) LSA member Warren Cowgill (Yale University) has established a new endowment to support a student fellowship serving historically under-represented scholars wishing to attend the LSA’s Linguistic Institute.

The earnings from the new endowment, funded with a $50,000 donation, will enable students to participate in future Institutes tuition-free. The first award will be made at the 2021 Institute, to be held at UMass, Amherst. [The 2019 Institute will be held at the Univ. of Californa, Davis.] The Warren Cowgill Fellowship will be awarded to a student from a racial or ethnic background that has traditionally been under-represented in the field of linguistics, including African-Americans, Latinx/Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islanders, and those of mixed heritage.

Warren Cowgill was an eminent linguist who served as the Hermann and Klara H. Collitz Professor at the 1972 LSA Linguistic Institute, held at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. [See below.] He was an authority on Indo-European linguistics, especially Celtic, Germanic, and Greek, and served as the consultant on Indo-European to the Encyclopædia Britannica. He was a proponent, unusually among Indo-European linguists of his time, of the hypothesis that Indo-European should be classified as a branch of Indo-Hittite, with Hittite as a sister language of the Indo-European languages, rather than a daughter language. He graduated from Stanford University in 1952 and received a Ph.D. from Yale in 1957.

The LSA announcement includes links to reminiscences of Warren as a scholar and teacher (and, I should add, as a Mensch).

Now, the 1972 Linguistic Institute. UNC’s Maria Tsiapera was the director, and I (then at Ohio State) was associate director (representing the interests of the LSA in the administration of the Institute). Thanks to Maria, the Institute was extremely heavy on historical linguistics, with a stellar faculty (especially in Indo-European). Warren taught two courses, Introduction to Indo-European and Seminar in Problems of Indo-European Morphology.

One of the pleasures of Institutes is that the faculty sit in on each other’s courses, sometimes to see how someone else teaches a course that you usually teach, but very often to learn about some area of linguistics you have very little experience with (especially if you might be impressed into teaching it yourself one day). I sat in on Warren’s intro course, which was both very challenging and a great delight, and occasionally the seminar (whose regular auditors included Cal Watkins (Harvard), Henry Hoenigwald (Penn), and Paul Kiparsky (MIT), and, if I remember correctly, also Bob King (Texas) and Jim Harris (MIT) — an impressive roster indeed).

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