I recently learned of the death of the Slavist Horace Lunt, a student of Roman Jakobson who taught at Harvard; I still consult my first edition (1955) of his compact Old Church Slavonic Grammar, admirably sensible and structuralist. You can read some reminiscences here. (Thanks, Cherie!)


  1. Oh my, that wasn’t a very good week for linguist Professors Emeriti. Werner Winter happened to pass on only a few days earlier: http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-3229.html

  2. I thought I’d post a couple of paragraphs from Dan Waugh’s reminiscence (at the second link):

    When I arrived in Cambridge, he had the reputation of being a fierce curmudgeon, but I remember little of that–the word then was that he had mellowed considerably even as early as 1963. I remember one class in which he jokingly suggested he was going to demand that a certain Prof. X, who had received his degree from Harvard some years earlier and published over the years numerous translations from Old Russian texts, return his degree, since, as we compared those translations with our own, the published ones in the anthology proved to be riddled with errors…

    Indeed, H. had a good sense of humor. He professed once to be hugely embarrassed that the publisher of his OCS grammar has included a one-word tribute as a dust-jacket blurb, “superb,” from a distinguished British slavist whose review in fact was otherwise devastatingly negative. At least at this distance, I cannot think of why the book had received such a critique, although I still recall (correctly?) that Horace’s advocacy of Macedonian resulted in his being condemned as a heretic in Bulgaria, probably a rare distinction for a historical linguist.

  3. PlasticPaddy says

    L apparently could also “dish it out”.
    “Lunt’s high academic standards and dedication to accuracy and comprehensiveness made him a formidable writer of reviews, taking to task any scholar, novice or distinguished academician, who professed to be discussing a problem or set of issues coherently and accurately, when in fact the evidence showed quite the opposite. A recipient no doubt cringed upon reading evaluations like ‘distressingly unsatisfactory,’ ‘scandalously bad,’ ‘incompetence and professional irresponsibility,’ ‘[the book] has its good points, but reliability unfortunately is not one of them,’ and ‘We have the right to demand clear and adequate explanations; based on coherent theory,’ especially since they were typically reinforced by a cascade of examples of inaccuracy, inconsistency, anachronism, and opaqueness. ”
    Source: https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-3534.html

  4. Good for him! I’ve gotten increasingly annoyed over the years by unsatisfactory academic publications (and correspondingly appreciative of excellent ones), and it’s good that they should be slapped over the wrist, though I don’t know how much good it does.

  5. Steven McLeoud says

    He was a good linguist but had succumbed to political agenda. His studies were also largely sponsored by local governments and were largely compromised (especially in ex-Yugoslavia). He had made some absurd historical claims and is considered a controversial figure in some Balkan countries. In Greece and Bulgaria there is a term being used “Lunt-natism”, do describe some of his historical assertions.

  6. I googled lunt-natism and got 0 hits. Maybe it only works in cyrillic & greek alphabets.

    What exactly made him unpalatable in Bulgaria and Greece? Is it his work with the Macedonian language?

    It seems that Bulgarians still have a problem with the existence of Macedonia. Bulgaria is threatening to veto Macedonia’s accession negotiations with the EU unless Macedonians recognise that their language is really Bulgarian, or some such thing!!!!

  7. Yeah, I don’t take nationalist objections to linguists’ work very seriously.

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