William Cornyn

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William Stewart Cornyn (1906–1971) was a Canadian-born American linguist and author, noted for his expertise in Burmese and Russian language studies, as well as for his research on Athabaskan and Burman etymology.

Cornyn was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1922 he moved to Los Angeles where he first found work as a stock clerk, hall boy, and bookkeeper. He lived in San Francisco from 1924 to 1928, working as an insurance clerk, eventually returning to Los Angeles. He married twice, first to Sara Ellen Fetterman on 24 September 1928 (by whom he had son William, Jr.); then to Catherine McKee on January 29, 1937 (by whom he had two sons and a daughter).

He graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (BA with highest honors, 1940), and did graduate work at Yale (AM 1942, PhD 1944),[1] where he served as a professor of Slavic and South East Asian Linguistics and chair of both the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Russian Area Program.[2]

Cornyn's research focused on the description of and preparation of pedagogical materials for Burmese and Russian. William Cornyn became a member of the Linguistic Society of America in 1941 while working as an Assistant in Germanic Languages at UCLA.[3] In 1962 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Linguistics.[4]

He died at the age of sixty-four.[2]


  • (1939) "Hotel Slang" American Speech 14.3:239–40.
  • (1944) "Outline of Burmese Grammar" Language 20.4:5–34. (Language Dissertation No. 38).
  • (1957) Burmese chrestomathy. (American Council of Learned Societies. Program in Oriental Languages. Publications Series A, No. 4.). Washington: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • (1958) with John K. Musgrave. Burmese Glossary (American Council of Learned Societies. Program in Oriental Languages. Publications. Series A. No. 5.). Washington: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • (1959) Beginning Russian. New Haven: Yale University Press.


  1. ^ Who's Who in the East, Vol. 7 (Larkin, Roosevelt & Larkin, 1959), p. 196.
  2. ^ a b "William Stewart Cornyn" Slavic Review, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 1971), pp. 716–21
  3. ^ Language, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Jul.–Sep., 1941), pp. 278–79.
  4. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, William Stewart Cornyn. Accessed 2012-08-04.