E. Adelaide Hahn

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Emma Adelaide Hahn (April 1, 1893 – July 8, 1967) was an American linguist and classicist who specialized in Latin grammar and Indo-European linguistics. She served as chair of the Hunter College Classics department for twenty-seven years and was the first woman to serve as president of the Linguistic Society of America.


Hahn was born in New York City to Otto Hahn, an immigrant from Austria, and Elenore (Funk) Hahn. She attended Hunter College High School and then Hunter College, where she received a B.A. in 1915 with a Latin major and Greek minor. Her graduate work in classics was at Columbia University, where she received an M.A. in 1917 and a Ph.D. in 1929.[1] Her dissertation, supervised by Charles Knapp, was on grammatical elements in the writing of Virgil.[2]

At Columbia, she enrolled in a course by Edgar Howard Sturtevant in comparative grammar of Greek and Latin. Sturtevant sparked Hahn's interest in Indo-European linguistics (particularly Hittite), which she continued to study at the LSA's summer Linguistic Institute. After Sturtevant joined the faculty at Yale University, she attended linguistic seminars at Yale taught by Leonard Bloomfield, Franklin Edgerton, Albrecht Goetze, Eduard Prokosch, and Edward Sapir.[1]

At Hunter, after joining the classics faculty in 1921, Hahn became an assistant professor in 1925, an associate professor in 1933, and a full professor in 1936.[2] She became the chair of the classics department in 1936 and continued in this position until her retirement in 1963.[1]

For the Linguistic Society of America, she served as a member of the Executive Committee from 1930 to 1934, as vice-president in 1940, and as president in 1946.[1] She was the first woman to serve as LSA president.[3]

She was also president of the New York Classical Club from 1939 to 1941, vice-president of the American Oriental Society from 1952 to 1953, and president of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States from 1960 to 1962.[1]

Hahn's distinctive New York accent, forceful way of speaking, and penchant for large feathered hats earned her a reputation as a “character,” a colorful and unforgettable personality.[2]

Hahn died in New York City in 1967.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lane, George S. (December 1967). "E. Adelaide Hahn". Language. Linguistic Society of America. 43 (4): 958–964. JSTOR 411976.
  2. ^ a b c d Hallett, Judith P. (October 2007). "Emma Adelaide Hahn (1893-1967)". Classical Association of the Atlantic States. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Presidents". Linguistic Society of America. Retrieved 18 January 2015.