archives henri wittmann archives

[DIR] back/retour
Henri Wittmann

emeritus professor of linguistics

Biographical sketch

    Henri (Hirsch) Wittmann was born in Alsatia in 1937. After studying with André Martinet at the Sorbonne, he exiled himself to North America during the Algerian war and taught successively at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Windsor and McGill University in Montreal before teaching in the French university system of Quebec, the University of Quebec at Three-Rivers and at Rimouski as well as the University of Sherbrooke. He retired from teaching in 1997, after an extensive tour of teaching and conferencing in France. In the following years, he became the first Director of the Presses universitaires de Trois-Rivières and emeritus researcher at the Centre d’Analyse des Littératures Francophones des Amériques at Carleton University in Ottawa.

    As a comparatist, HW contributed to the study of the morphology of a number of languages and language families: Pré-Indoeuropean (Hittite, Old Egyptian), Indo-European (Italic, Romance, Germanic, Creole), African (Mande, Kwa, Bantu), Austronesian (Malagasy, Polynesian), Amerindian (Arawakian, Caribian). A list of his work between 1963 and 2002 would amount to more than 140 items (see the bibliograpy on this site, with access to some of his most important writings).

    He is a life member since 1962 of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). In 1965, he cofounded with André Rigault and Douglas Ellis the Linguistics Department at McGill University. In 1981, he was the cofounder, with Normand Beauchemin and Robert Fournier, of the Linguistic Society of Quebec (Association québévoise de linguistique) which he served for 10 years as president, secretary general and organizer of the annual meeting. In 1981 as well, he became the first Editor of the Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée, a responsability he assumed for the following 20 years.

    Politically, HW is known for his anarcho-syndicalist sympathies with strong links to the CNTU (Confederation of National Trade Unions), communautary and anti-war movements. In 1974-1978, he was at the center of a union conflict at the University of Quebec which changed the landscape of collective bargaining in the academic world. A specialist of the linguistic heritage of Quebec, he also is a stout defender of Quebec independance.

    In the 40 years up to 2002, HW has served on a number of commities, commisions and boards in various positions. His students, colleages and friends througout the World would be most grateful if the work of his lifetime, his comparative grammar of French vernaculars outside Europe, would eventually see publication.