Hugo Ernst Mario Schuchardt (4 February 1842, Gotha (Thuringia) – 21 April 1927, Graz (Styria)) was an eminent German linguist, best known for his work in the Romance languages, the Basque language, and in mixed languages, including pidgins, creoles, and the Lingua franca of the Mediterranean.
Schuchardt grew up in Gotha. From 1859–1864, he studied in Jena and Bonn with many important linguists of the time, notably August Schleicher and Kuno Fischer in Jena, as well as Friedrich Ritschl and Otto Jahn in Bonn. In 1864, Schuchardt earned a doctorate with a dissertation entitled De sermonis Romani plebei vocalibus ('On the vowels of Vulgar Latin'). Based upon a perusal of "an incredible amount of texts never really considered before him", it was subsequently published 1866-1868 in a three volume German language edition as Der Vokalismus des Vulgärlateins. In 1870, Schuchardt was promoted to professor ('habilitation') at the University of Leipzig, and in 1873 he became professor of Romance Philology at the University of Halle which was then a stronghold of the neogrammarians. During this time, Schuchardt primarily worked on traditional topics in Romance philology with a strong historic orientation, but also developed an interest in language contact and language mixing (as found in mixed languages and creole languages).
Moving to Graz, Austria
In 1876, Schuchardt became chair for Romance Philology at the University of Graz, with the help of Johannes Schmidt. He did field work in Wales (1875) and Spain (1879) where he collected material for his Celtic and Basque/Romance research. Schuchardt became interested in two new fields, creole and Basque linguistics, thereby becoming a respected forefather of both linguistic subdisciplines. He is also the first linguist to have promulgated seriously the idea that creole languages are in no way inferior to other languages. With his 1888 publication "Auf Anlass des Volapüks" he promoted the creation of a new auxiliary world language for all nations. In the same period (1885), he published an influential critique of the methods of the neogrammarians with the title "Über die Lautgesetze. Gegen die Junggrammatiker".
Schuchardt may be most eminent as a vascologist. In 1887, L.L. Bonaparte arranged Schuchardt's journey to the village of Sara (Labourd, Basses Pyrénées) where he did field work and seems to have learned the Basque language. Following this journey, he published numerous (>100!) works on Basque and Romano-Basque, but he never returned to the Basque Country. In various publications, Schuchardt discussed possible relationships of Basque with other language families—today Basque is known as a language isolate. Schuchardt firmly sided with the outdated viewpoint of the Vasco-Iberian hypothesis, which stands in stark contrast to his earlier open-mindedness.
Similarly, in the then-current discussion on ergativity, Schuchardt firmly defended the idea of the ergative construction as an obligatorily passive clause (as opposed to a similarly questionable theory of the ergative construction being a nominalized clause); with this viewpoint, he specifically opposed Nikolaus Finck in Vienna with whom he had a scientific dispute in a succession of articles (e.g., N. Finck (1907), "Der angeblich passivische Charakter des transitiven Verbs", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 41:209-282).
Although Schuchardt was invited to professorships in Budapest and Leipzig (around 1890), he refused to leave Graz. In 1900, however, Schuchardt retired early from his chair. Being then free from his teaching duties, he undertook extended trips to Southern Italy, Egypt, and Scandinavia. He then built a huge villa in Graz (Johann Fux Gasse nr. 30) for himself and his huge library, and named it 'Villa Malvine', after his beloved mother (Malvine von Bridel-Brideri).
The last two decades of his life, he worked predominantly on Basque. Disappointed by the "unjust peace" following World War I, Italian irredentism and French nationalism ('chauvinism'), he was no longer interested in Romance research, partly even giving up contacts with colleagues from these countries. In an article (Bekenntnisse und Erkenntnisse 1919), he gives some oral history insights into his youth and historic events of that time as well as his viewpoint of the outcome of World War I.
Hugo Schuchardt is one of the most eminent linguists of the Germanic tradition within Romance Philology. Today, of course, his contribution is mainly of historiographic interest. For the Basque community, he is one of the most eminent foreign scholars, beside Wilhelm von Humboldt and only few others.
His huge library became part of the university library of Graz; his 'Villa Malvine' hosted the Romance philology department for a long time, but is today an administrative building of the university. Researchers in Graz have constantly worked on Schuchardt ever since, among them Michaela Wolf and the linguist Bernhard Hurch (himself being a bascologist with a strong interest in historiography of linguistics) who finally even managed to compile an online archive of the entire work of Schuchardt (see external links).
His most lasting contributions to modern linguistics, though, are the elaboration, with Johannes Schmidt, of the Wave Model of language change and his substantial work laying the foundations of modern creolistics.
- Bossong,Georg. 1984: "Wilhelm von Humboldt y Hugo Schuchardt: dos eminentes vascólogos alemanes." in: Arbor 467/468: 163-182
- Meijer, Guus & Pieter Muysken. 1977: "On the beginnings of pidgin and creole studies: Schuchardt and Hesseling." In: Albert Valdman (ed.) Pidgin and creole linguistics, 21-45. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
- Schuchardt, Hugo. 1928: Hugo Schuchardt-Brevier: Ein Vademecum der allgemeinen Sprachwissenschaft. Ed. by Leo Spitzer, rev. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1922). Halle/Saale: Niemeyer
- Schuchardt, Hugo. 1979: The ethnography of variation: Selected writings on pidgins and creoles. Edited and translated by T.L. Markey; Introduction by Derek Bickerton. Ann Arbor: Karoma
- Vennemann, Theo & Terence H. Wilbur. 1972: "Schuchardt, the neogrammarians, and the transformational theory of phonological change." Four essays by H. Schuchardt. Ed. by Th. Vennemann & T.H. Wilbur. Frankfurt/M. (= Ling. Forsch. 26)
- "--[being] a work upon which our knowledge of the phonetic changes in Late Latin is still ultimately established." Cit. József Herman: "Spoken and written Latin in the last centuries of the Roman Empire. A contribution to the linguistic history of the western provinces", In: Roger Wright (ed.), Latin and the Romance languages in the Early Middle Ages, pp. 29-43, Routledge, London 1990 ISBN 0-415-05606-3
- Free electronic edition of the opera omnia (over 700 publications in both pdf and online), including translations, texts, necrologies, selected correspondences, materials, necrologies and online publications on Schuchardt
- Full information and online edition of all works at the university of Graz (Austria)
- Hugo Schuchardt in the German National Library catalogue