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Gabelentz, Hans Conon Von Der

GABELENTZ, HANS CONON VON DER (1807-1874), German linguist and ethnologist, born at Altenburg on the 13th of October 1807, was the only son of Hans Karl Leopold von der Gabelentz, chancellor and privy-councillor of the duchy of Altenburg. From 1821 to 1825 he attended the gymnasium of his native town, where he had Matthiae (the eminent Greek scholar) for teacher, and Hermann Brockhaus and Julius Löbe for schoolfellows. Here, in addition to ordinary school-work, he carried on the private study of Arabic and Chinese; and the latter language continued especially to engage his attention during his undergraduate course, from 1825 to 1828, at the universities of Leipzig and Göttingen. In 1830 he entered the public service of the duchy of Altenburg, where he attained to the rank of privy-councillor in 1843. Four years later he was chosen to fill the post of Landmarschall in the grand-duchy of Weimar, and in 1848 he attended the Frankfort parliament, and represented the Saxon duchies on the commission for drafting an imperial constitution for Germany. In November of the same year he became president of the Altenburg ministry, but he resigned office in the following August. From 1851 to 1868 he was president of the second chamber of the duchy of Altenburg; but in the latter year he withdrew entirely from public life, that he might give undivided attention to his learned researches. He died on his estate of Lemnitz, in Saxe-Weimar, on the 3rd of September 1874.

In the course of his life he is said to have learned no fewer than eighty languages, thirty of which he spoke with fluency and elegance. But he was less remarkable for his power of acquisition than for the higher talent which enabled him to turn his knowledge to the genuine advancement of linguistic science. Immediately after quitting the university, he followed up his Chinese researches by a study of the Finno-Ugrian languages, which resulted in the publication of his Eléments de la grammaire mandchoue in 1832. In 1837 he became one of the promoters, and a joint-editor, of the Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, and through this medium he gave to the world his Versuch einer mordwinischen Grammatik and other valuable contributions. His Grundzüge der syrjänischen Grammatik appeared in 1841. In conjunction with his old school friend, Julius Löbe, he brought out a complete edition, with translation, glossary and grammar, of Ulfilas's Gothic version of the Bible (1843-1846); and from 1847 he began to contribute to the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft the fruits of his researches into the languages of the Swahilis, the Samoyedes, the Hazaras, the Aimaks, the Formosans and other widely-separated tribes. The Beiträge zur Sprachenkunde (1852) contain Dyak, Dakota, and Kiriri grammars; to these were added in 1857 a Grammatik u. Wörterbuch der Kassiasprache, and in 1860 a treatise in universal grammar (Uber das Passivum). In 1864 he edited the Manchu translations of the Chinese Sse-shu, Shu-king and Shi-king, along with a dictionary; and in 1873 he completed the work which constitutes his most important contribution to philology, Die melanesischen Sprachen nach ihrem grammatischen Bau und ihrer Verwandschaft unter sich und mit den malaiisch-polynesischen Sprachen untersucht (1860-1873). It treats of the language of the Fiji Islands, New Hebrides, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia, etc., and shows their radical affinity with the Polynesian class. He also contributed most of the linguistic articles in Pierer's Conversations-Lexicon.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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