William J. Samarin
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Academia Literature Social science|
|Birth||7 February 1926, Los Angeles, United States of America|
William John Samarin (born February 7, 1926) is an American-born linguist and academic who was Professor at the Hartford Seminary and the University of Toronto. He is best known for his work on the language of religion, on the two central African languages Sango and Gbeya, on pidginization, and on ideophones in African languages.
Education and career
After obtaining undergraduate degrees from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley, Samarin became a missionary linguist and studied the Gbeya and Sango languages of the Ubangi-Shari region (now the Central African Republic). He received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1962. His first appointment as a professor of linguistics was at the Hartford Seminary, which he left for the University of Toronto in 1968. In 2019, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics.
Samarin spent almost a decade in Central Africa studying Gbeya, Sango and other African languages. He was one of the first to study ideophones in a number of different African languages, and he did extensive research on the history of the Sango language, which he claimed involved pidginization.
Another strand of his work relates to the language of religion, in particular glossolalia in charismatic Christianity. This work was partly based on participant observation, as Samarin grew up as a member of the Molokan community in Los Angeles.
Samarin was also the author of the first textbook on field research in linguistics, and the first to use the term “field linguistics” (Samarin 1967).