Bloomfield, Leonard, 1887-1949

Alternative names
Birth 1887-04-01
Death 1949-04-18
English, Algonquian languages

Biographical notes:

American linguist Leonard Bloomfield pioneered the development of structural linguistics in the United States during the 1930s and the 1940s. He wrote extensively and his renowned mid-career textbook, Language, presented a comprehensive description of American structural linguistics. He made significant contributions to Indo-European historical linguistics, the description of Austronesian languages, and description of languages of the Algonquian family.

From the guide to the Leonard Bloomfield notebooks, 1925, (American Philosophical Society)

Leonard Bloomfield was born on April 1, 1887 in Chicago. Bloomfield attended from Harvard University (B.A.1906), the University of Wisconsin (1906-08), the University of Chicago (Ph.D 1909), the University of Leipzig (1913-14), and the University of Göttingen (1914).

Bloomfield was an instructor of German at the University of Cincinnati from 1909 to 1910 and at the University of Illinois from 1910 to 1913. He was an Assistant Professor for comparative linguistics and German at the University of Illinois from 1913 10 1921, and an Assistant Professor of German at Ohio State University, Columbus from 1921 to 1927. He was professor at the University of Chicago from 1927 to 1940. At Chicago, he became Chairman of the Department of Linguistics, which was started in 1933. He became Professor of Germanic Philology and Acting Chairman of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. In 1940 he resigned from the department and left for Yale, where he had been offered a Sterling Professorship in Linguistics.

His specialty for years was Germanic languages, but later he became interested in languages from a scientific viewpoint. With Edward Sapir, Bloom can be considered one of the two most prominent American linguists of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1914 he wrote Introduction to the Study of Language, which was in later editions just called Language (1933). The book became the standard introduction to linguistics for thirty years. With his students, particularly Bernard Bloch, Zellig Harris, and Charles Hockett, Bloomfield established the school of thought that has come to be known as American structural linguistics, which dominated the field until the1960s.

Bloomfield helped to start the Linguistic Society of America in 1924, and served as its president in 1935. He was a member of the International Committee of Linguists.

His other works include Tagalog Texts With Grammatical Analysis (1917), Menomini Texts (1928), Sacred Stories of the Sweetgrass Cree (1930), Plains Cree Texts (1934), The Stressed Vowels of American English (1935), Linguistic Aspects of Science (1939), Spoken Dutch (1945), and Spoken Russian (1945).

Bloomfield married Alice Sayers in 1909. The couple had two sons.

Leonard Bloomfield died on April 18, 1949 in New Haven, Connecticut.

From the guide to the Bloomfield, Leonard. Papers, 1935-1943, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Anthropological linguistics--America
  • Linguistics
  • Burmese language
  • Literature--History and criticism
  • Reading--Study and teaching
  • Indians of North America--Languages
  • Cree language


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