The collected writings of Warren Cowgill
Warren Crawford Cowgill was born December 19, 1929, near Grangeville, Idaho, and died of cancer June 20, 1985, in New Haven, Connecticut. Other than two visiting appointments, one at the University of Illinois (1961), the other at the University of London (1966), he spent his whole professional life at Yale. More than twenty years after C's untimely death, his Collected writings have been made available to the discipline of Indo-European studies in an edition [End Page 220] prepared by Jared Klein. The edition deserves highest praise, and Indo-Europeanists are certainly grateful for the editor's labors. The volume contains all of C's published articles and reviews and a selection of previously unpublished work. Not included is C's introduction to Mayrhofer's Indo-European phonology; the reason for this is clearly that the text is otherwise readily available (Mayrhofer 1986:11-85). Also not included in C's 1957 dissertation, a fully acceptable decision because C himself did not think that the monograph was in a publishable stage.
The volume opens with a very competent introduction by the editor, who lays out his principles of presenting the material. With his characterization of C as a scholar one fully agrees: 'Exactitude, methodological thoroughness, clarity of thought, complete command of the data, lucidity of style, common sense: these are words and phrases which come most easily to mind when one attempts to characterize the scholarly writings of Warren Cowgill' (vii). Klein rightly points out that C's work amounts to a historiography of Indo-European studies in the areas that he dealt with in his research: 'although he never set out to write a history of the discipline, he has left in his writings a broad outline of some of the most important ideas that antedated him' (xiv).1 This is followed by 'Reminiscences' written by Stanley Insler (xxvii-iii), Anna Morpurgo Davies (xxix-xiii), Henry Hoenigswald (xxxiii-iv), Jay Jasanoff (xxxiv-v), Alan Nussbaum (xxxv-vii), Calvert Watkins (xxxvii-ix), Stephanie W. Jamison (xli-ii), and Alexander Lehrmann (xliii-vi). These pieces are warm tributes to a great scholar and a fine man. One detail may be picked out. Nussbaum reports a conversation in which the topic of learning Old Irish came up, and everybody complained how difficult it all was, and how elusive Old Irish grammar was in every conceivable respect. Of course all participants in the conversation well knew that C had a wonderful command of all intricacies of Old Irish. In his typically slow way he then threw in the observation: 'Learning Old Irish is like mowing the lawn'. Understandably the listeners were baffled by this curious statement, and of course Warren enjoyed seeing that nobody understood what he meant to say. After a while he offered the solution: 'It's not something you do just once'. This is a splendid example of his profound humor.
Particularly welcome is the piece 'Cowgill on Cowgill' (xlvii-iii). This autobiographical letter to the LSA archives is dated June 6-7, 1984, and represents a condensed account of the major stages in C's life and career. The essay offers valuable information on the academic life in the Yale Linguistics Department from the 1950s onwards. C found his 'first interview with Bernard Bloch rather overwhelming' (li). He calls Paul Tedesco 'the person who immediately became my guru at Yale' (li). Tedesco was also the supervisor of C's 1957 dissertation.2 The essay contains miniature portraits of Konstantin Reichardt and Albrecht Götze, then professors of Germanic linguistics and Hittite, respectively, at Yale.
The book consists of work published in various places, and it is most useful to have the pieces that appeared in a variety of journals and monographs within the covers of one solid book.3 The [End Page 221] editor took great pains at finalizing the texts. Although C was a notoriously meticulous proof-reader, Klein still detected a few misprints (listed on p. xviii). In some instances C revised an interpretation he had given earlier, and Klein carefully notes such cases. Thus the derivation of Lat. maximus (205) (originally published in 1970) is slightly modified in the paper on Lat. stāre (published in 1973): 'the form of maximus immediately before syncope was *magezemos' (240, n. 36). Similarly Klein notes (228) that C later reconsidered his interpretation of Old Prussian postasei, as can be gathered from the posthumous paper (561). Klein appends a note because the wording in C's text is not absolutely clear (524, n. 4a). The volume is concluded by full indices of the material dealt with in C's papers. All of the articles here have been typeset so that the book has an absolutely uniform shape and presents C's views in a very coherent way.
The volume also contains two papers that were so far not available in print in this shape. 'The z-cases of Germanic pronouns and strong adjectives' (519-34) concerns the paradigm of some pronominal forms in Germanic. 'The personal endings of thematic verbs in Indo-European' (69-76) is an expanded version of his paper read at the 'Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft' in Berlin in 1983 and published in 1985. Although this is most certainly not the occasion to discuss or possibly criticize C's scholarly oeuvre, one detail may nevertheless be pointed out that certainly deserves further exploration. Most of C's observations are persuasive and quite acceptable, but his derivation of the marker for first person singular of the primary endings in the thematic paradigm is difficult to defend from the viewpoint of historical phonology: C contends that IE *-ō (> Greek -ω, etc.) resulted from *-o-mi. While the posited form IE *-o-mi is definitely likely within the grammatical system of the proto-language, the development of *-o-mi to *-ō is hardly acceptable. The historical development must be a good deal more complicated. In this as in many other respects, C's views on Indo-European now republished will certainly stimulate further research.
One particular feature that is typical of C's work is perhaps best expressed in a short observation contained in his review of Krahe 1958 (469-72). Krahe glosses the Indo-European root *steygh-as 'steigen' ('climb'); the same gloss is used for Sanskrit stighnoti. In Krahe's obvious source (Walde & Pokorny 1930:614, Pokorny 1959:1079) the IE root is glossed 'schreiten, steigen'. If we include the evidence of Old Irish tíagu 'I go', Lithuanian staigýtis 'hasten', but also the nominal formation Gothic staiga 'way, path', it is likely that the basic meaning of *steygh- was 'go, step', and 'climb' represents a specific development in Germanic. In reconstructing structural elements of Indo-European the interpretation of the available evidence requires great attention. With regard to the comparative method in linguistics C offers the following wise observation: 'the application of this method [reconstruction] to any but the simplest problems is of course tremendously difficult; it is what makes comparative linguistics an art, refractory (so far) to codification as a set of mechanical procedures' (471, n. 5).
The Collected writings of Warren Cowgill will certainly be a major item in every library with a collection of Indo-European material. With loving care and high competence Klein has erected a lasting monument for an excellent scholar and a wonderful man. The volume can rightly be considered as a landmark in Indo-European studies.
The Catholic University of Eichstaett
1. Klein gives a full bibliography of C's publications with further indications of the numerous papers he read at conferences. In the list of dissertations supervised by C it may be added that Sihler's 1967 dissertation is now accessible in Sihler 2006.
2. Paul Tedesco was born May 5, 1898, in Vienna, Austria. He was Jewish. He studied linguistics at Vienna University. No copy of his probably handwritten 1920 dissertation on Das iranische Partizipia-Präteritum can be located. The only information on the thesis that we still have is the report written by Bernhard Geiger, who had supervised the dissertation project. In 1925 Tedesco submitted Dialektologie der westiranischen Turfantexte as part of his habilitation project. He was rejected. From 1924 to 1936 he taught in various secondary schools in Vienna. In 1938 he was able to leave Austria and emigrate to the United States. Both his mother and his brother fell victims to Nazi persecution. From 1941 until his retirement in 1966 Tedesco was attached to Yale University-from 1960 onwards in the function of Edward E. Salisbury Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology. Paul Tedesco died December 17, 1980, in New Haven. Schmitt 2003-2004 offers an account of Tedesco's biography together with a very competent presentation and scholarly assessment of his publications and a full bibliography of his writings.
3. C spent hours and hours answering his correspondence world-wide, and this is of course at least part of the reason why he published relatively little. C's letters were models of concise and absolutely trenchant argumentation; not a word was superfluous. Whoever brought any question to his attention could be assured of competent criticism: 'the amount of time which Cowgill would spend reading carefully and commenting extensively on the work of others, primarily in the form of letters, is legendary' (xv). Klein also stresses 'another side to the man's teaching, reserved only for the fortunate few who had the opportunity to learn directly from him in the classroom' (xiv). Obviously much of C's thinking lives on with his students. Many interesting details can now be gathered from Sihler 1995.