Leonard Bloomfield

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L. Bloomfield

Leonard Bloomfield (born April 1, 1887 in Chicago) was an American linguist who analyzed language in a behavioristic, mechanistic way. He died on April 18, 1949, in New Haven.

Leonard Bloomfield was born to Sigmund and Carola Buber Bloomfield. His uncle, Maurice Bloomfield, was professor of comparative philology and Sanskrit at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He entered Harvard College in 1903 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. in German. After studying with Eduard Prokosch, he decided on a career in linguistics.

At the University of Chicago, he was appointed assistant professor of German in 1908. Leonard Bloomfield received his Ph.D. one year later under Francis A. Wood with “A semasiologic differentiation in Germanic secondary ablaut”. He married his fiancée Alice Sayers in the same year. He was employed by the University of Cincinnati as an instructor in German for the year 1909–10. He worked in the German Department of the University of Illinois until 1913.

In the winter semester of 1913–14, Leonard Bloomfield began studying historical-comparative linguistics in the Neogrammarian tradition with August Leskien and Karl Brugmann in Göttingen and Leipzig, and in the summer semester of 1914 he studied historical-comparative linguistics with Jacob Wackernagel, as well as Indian and Iranian studies.

His study in Germany was a condition of his employment from 1913–21 as Assistant Professor of Comparative Philology and German at the University of Illinois.

From 1921 on, he worked as Professor of German and Linguistics at the Ohio State University, where he was a colleague of the behaviorist Albert P. Weiss.

In 1924, he, George M. Bolling, and Edgar H. Sturtevant founded the Linguistic Society of America.

In 1927 he left for Chicago, where he worked in the field of Germanic philology until 1940. He became president of the LSA in 1935. In 1940, he became Edward Sapir’s successor at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, as the Sterling Professor of Linguistics.

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