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German researchers on Ob-Ugric languages

Wolfgang Steinitz

*28 February 1905 in Breslau, † 21 April 1967 in Berlin.

image Wolfgang Steinitz Researcher in the field of Finno-Ugrian, Russian studies and folklore. Studied in Breslau and Berlin under (among others) Ernst Lewy.

In 1924–1926, Steinitz travelled to Finland, Estonia and the Soviet Union. In 1933, he was discharged from his employment at the University of Berlin. In 1933/34 he emigrated to the Soviet Union via Estonia and became professor of Finno-Ugric languages at the Institute of the Peoples of the North in Leningrad. In 1935, he spent six months among the Khanty people. During this time, he collected many materials in the form of texts, and grammatical and lexical notes. Following this, he worked together with Khanty students at the Herzen Institute in Leningrad. In 1937, he emigrated to Sweden; from 1943 he worked at the Hungarian Institute at the University of Stockholm. From 1946, he presided over the Finno-Ugric Institute at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

In 1939, Steinitz published two volumes with collections of texts in Synya and Sherkal Khanty, supplemented with linguistic and ethnographic commentaries and grammatical sketches. He was in close contact with the Prague circle of structuralism, and accordingly he examined the phonology of the Khanty and Mansi dialects and wrote a monograph on the vocalism of these languages. At that time, he considered the vowel change of the Ob-Ugric languages an inheritance from Proto-Finno-Ugric; in 1965, Steinitz make public that he had not been able to confirm his theory. He published further papers on Russian, Zyrian (Komi), Turkic, Selkup and Nenets loanwords in the Khanty language.

The question of the history of Permian sounds was plunged into controversy and finally led to the formation of different schools. The famous Finno-Ugrian researcher Erkki Itkonen tried to explain certain development by means of so-called "inconditioned splits", against which Steinitz argued hotly.

Besides his linguistics papers, Steinitz continued to apply himself to the study of folklore topics: in his dissertation he addressed the folk poetry of the Karelians and the Finns; in later works, he dealt with epic poetry and with Ob-Ugrian tales, as well as with ethnographic and mythological topics.

The collection of German folksongs, a textbook on the Russian language and the co-founding of Wörterbuch der deutschen Gegenwartssprache (Dictionary of contemporary German) belonged to his further fields of activity.

(Anna Widmer; translated by Veronika Bauer)


Works (selection; for details see bibliographical database):

Gert Sauer

*1932 in Frankfurt an der Oder.
Finno-Ugrian Studies under Wolfgang Steinitz in Berlin; graduated 1956 with the publication Die Nominalbildung im Ostjakischen (Vach-Vasjuganer Dialekt).

In 1956, Sauer acceded as an aspirant at the Humboldt University of Berlin; in 1959, he finished his dissertation Die Nominalbildung im Ostjakischen.

From 1959, Sauer was active in the Academy of Sciences in Berlin where he worked on the DEWOS under the guidance of Wolfgang Steinitz. In 1967, together with two (later three) colleagues, he undertook the publication of the DEWOS [Dialektologisches und etymologisches Wörterbuch der ostjakischen Sprache, Ed.] and was responsible as final editor for the entries up to 1993. From 1966, Sauer lectured in the field of Finno-Ugrian studies and supervised several theses and dissertations on Finno-Ugrian topics. After finalizing the DEWOS, Sauer took charge of the working group on "Finno-Ugric–Russian language contacts using the example of Ostyak". As editor and academic supervisor, he was in charge of the publication of the four-volume Ostjakologischen Arbeiten by Wolfgang Steinitz, which is vitally important for the field of Ostyak (Khanty) studies. He organized the First International Symposium on Uralic (Finno-Ugrian) phonology in Berlin in 1974.

Besides a monograph on the nominal word formation of Khanty, Sauer composed various articles on the phonology of different Khanty dialects, types of nominal word stems, the morphology of adjectives, verbal prefixation, lexemes of descriptive character and essays on general Finno-Ugrian topics. Another focus was the loan relationships between Khanty and the neighbouring languages: Komi, Selkup, Tatar and Russian.

(Anna Widmer; translated by Veronika Bauer)

Works (selection; for details see bibliographical database):

Gerhard Ganschow

* 5 December 1923 in Berlin.

From 1948, studies of philosophy, German and Finno-Ugrian studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

In 1952, he sat the state examination under Wolfgang Steinitz with a paper on verbal word formation in Vakh-Vasyugan Khanty. Doctorate in 1956 (Die Verbalbildung im Ostjakischen, published 1965). From 1956, he was active as assistant in the Linguistic Commission at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin; in 1961, he became senior assistant. Subsequently, he worked as assistant at the Finno-Ugrian Department at the University of Hamburg. In 1965, he became associate professor at the chair of Finno-Ugrian Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich. Emeritus since 1989. Teaching until 1999.

(Anna Widmer; translated by Veronika Bauer)

Works (selection):

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Last update: 24-08-2023