Samuel Kleinschmidt

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Samuel Petrus Kleinschmidt ( 27 February 1814 i; † 8. February 1886) was a German/Danish missionary linguist born in Greenland known for having written extensively about the Greenlandic language and having invented the orthography used for writing this language from 1851 to 1973.

He was born to a couple of Moravian missionaries in the rectory of Lichtenau in southern Greenland (today, Alluitsoq). As a youth he went to school in Germany and Denmark studying Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, as well as Dutch, French, and English, all the while retaining his childhood languages, Danish, German, and Greenlandic. In 1840 he returned to Greenland, after two years he held his first sermon in Greenlandic, speaking it fluently and plainly rather than using old worn out idioms of the previous ministers. He already finished his grammar of Greenlandic in 1845. He sent it to printing at the University of Berlin but it was not be published until 1851. It was exceptional because it didn't use the traditional scheme of the Latin grammar to describe its subject, but rather devised a new scheme more suited for the Greenlandic language. This grammar was also the first work to employ the orthography which became the standard in writing Greenlandic until the reform of 1973. In 1859 he left the Moravian church to join the Church of Denmark. Most of his time in Greenland he served as a teacher rather than as a priest. He also translated the better part of the Bible into Greenlandic. He died in 1886 at 72 years of age in Neu-Herrnhut (today, Nuuk), having spent the 54 of them in Greenland.


  • Rosing, Otto and W. D. Preston (1951) Kleinschmidt Centennial II: Samuel Petrus Kleinschmidt, International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 63–65