Samarin, William John

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Samarin, William John

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William John Samarin (1926 - ) was a professor of linguistics and linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto between 1968 and 1991. He is best known for his contributions to scholarship in pidgin and creole studies, African linguistics, African history and glossolia.

Born in 1926, Professor Samarin grew up in Los Angeles, California as a member of the Molokans, a Russian Pentecostal sect. In 1947, he married Ruth Custer with whom he later had two children, daughters, Manya and Ramona.

Professor Samarin attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with a B.A., highest honours in linguistics, in 1950. Upon his graduation, he went to Oubangi-Chari, now the Central African Republic. There, he served as a missionary-linguist with the Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church until 1960. He then returned to Berkeley to pursue graduate studies in African linguistics and eventually received his Ph.D. in 1962. His doctoral dissertation, The Gbeya Language, reflected his keen interest in African languages.

While completing his doctorate, Professor Samarin was appointed Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Hartford Seminary Foundation in Hartford, Connecticut in 1961. He was then made Associate Professor in 1965 and full Professor in 1968. He also served as a Visiting Professor in African Linguistics at the Afrika-Studiecentrum of the University of Leiden, 1966-1967. Professor Samarin then joined the Faculty of the University of Toronto in 1968 as a Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Linguistics. In this capacity, he taught graduate and undergraduate courses mainly on the sociology of language. Upon his retirement from teaching in 1991, Professor Samarin was made Professor Emeritus of Linguistic Anthropology.

Professor Samarin’s research interests are broad and he has published scholarly articles on the following subjects: Gbeya; glossolalia; ideophones; Kituba; Lingala; lingua-francas; Molokan culture; pidgin/creole genesis; Sango; as well as the history of socio-linguistics.


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