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  • Samuel N. Rosenberg (1936–2020)
  • Christopher Callahan

Samuel Nathan Rosenberg was born January 19, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Israel and Etta Friedland Rosenberg, and the brother of Alex Rosenberg and Sylvia Rosenberg Fogelman. He died on June 30, 2020 at his home in Bloomington, Indiana, at the age of 84.

Sam seems to have been destined for the Academy from his earliest years. He was an avid reader even before primary school and began learning French in the first grade, later taking first prize in a city-wide competition for excellence in French. Multilingualism came naturally to him: exposed to Yiddish from infancy, pressed into learning Hebrew for his bar mitzvah, and constantly pursuing French, his command of the most refined stylistic registers in French received plaudits in mid-life from no less erudite a scholar than Michel Zink of the Collège de France (and now of the Académie française). He pursued French Studies, along with Italian and Latin, at Columbia College, receiving his A.B. in 1957 with "Highest Honors, Distinction in French"—noted in English, despite the Latin text of the rest of the diploma! While at Columbia, he worked at WKCR, the campus radio station, and his "mellifluous FM dj voice" made a lasting impression on everyone who met him.


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Sam in 1962. Courtesy estate of Samuel N. Rosenberg.

His insatiable curiosity was matched by a strong sense of ethics. Colleagues have since described him as "a champion of human rights and empathetic to a fault," qualities for which he was well-known by everyone he worked with. Indeed, he is described by his collaborators as "the ultimate gentleman—affable, courteous, distinguished—and an unstinting mentor." Equally erudite and [End Page 355] humble, he was gifted with "an incomparable sense of generosity and camaraderie."


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Sam in 2016. Photo by Chris Callahan.

Sam's decision to pursue his doctoral work at Johns Hopkins was doubtless influenced by the migration to Hopkins of his mentor Dr. Nathan Edelman, who had become chair of Romance Languages there the previous year. Once enrolled, he met his most formative—and formidable—mentor in Dr. Anna Granville Hatcher, who directed his dissertation. Sam later recalled her course in Old Provençal, taken in his first semester at Hopkins, as a baptism by fire, which nonetheless gave him a methodology for dissecting ancient languages in the minutest detail and a holistic grasp of both the source literary text and its cultural context. Sam went on to impart this approach to philology to his own students and to live it in the collaborative, interdisciplinary scholarship which marked his career.

As Sam was drawn to both historical and modern grammar and stylistics, his dissertation focused on modern French syntax because, in Sam's words, "Miss Hatcher explained that Miss Pope [From Latin to Old French] had said it all"; with time he realized that wasn't the case, but more on that below. His dissertation research was facilitated by a Fulbright to study in Paris in 1960–1961. He described his great fortune at being able to stay in the apartment, situated Place de Furstemberg in the St. Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, of the celebrated composer/pianist Alexander Tcherepnin and his wife, Ming, also a concert pianist. Sam's arrival and the Tcherepnins' departure overlapped by one week, during which evenings filled with music, wine, and scintillating conversation stretched into the wee hours.

In 1962, Sam took a lectureship at Indiana University, earning the rank of Assistant Professor in 1965 upon receipt of his Ph.D. [End Page 356] in Romance Philology. His dissertation, Modern French 'ce': The Neuter Pronoun in Adjectival Predication, published in 1970, was in fact not his first book-length work. Two years earlier, he had offered the English-speaking world a translation of Antoine Meillet's groundbreaking The Indo-European Dialects, a publication which both signaled his ongoing interest in historical linguistics and opened for him a scholarly path in translation; he remained active in both of these fields for the rest of his life.

Sam's training and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0146
Print ISSN
0890-3352
Pages
pp. 355-363
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-23
Open Access
No
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