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José B. Torres, Professor of School of Philosophy and Letters, University of Navarra, Spain

A purebred linguist

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 09:09:35 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Jürgen Untermann is a purebred linguist, an indispensable point of reference in the humanities. Today in Germany, as in other countries, comparative linguistics is also considered an "orchidsubject " that must disappear from the universities to give way to disciplines more in line with social reality. Undoubtedly, the academic atmosphere was very different when the brand new award Príncipe de Viana de la Cultura arrived at the University of Tübingen to start his programs of study together with Hans Krahe, one of the mythical names of Indo-European linguistics. Those who strive to reconstruct that common language from which languages as disparate as Vedic, Hittite or Latin were derived may seem to us to be individuals engaged in a task as daunting as it is arcane, far removed from our daily concerns at a distance that can perhaps be calculated, with luck, in millions of light years.

The truth is that the humanist awarded by the jury of the award Príncipe de Viana has never been at such a sidereal distance from reality. His first scientific works focused on the study of the Italic languages prior to Latin. He changed Peninsula and later investigated the pre-Roman languages of Hispania, a field to which he has been devoting himself for more than fifty years; his are the Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum, in which the pre-Roman coins and inscriptions of our Peninsula are collected and studied.

Untermann is, therefore, a rigorous researcher of our roots, those of all of us, an excellent candidate to the Prince of Viana of Culture. At a time when vague ideas and weak thinking drag us into Cainite confrontations, a scientific work like Untermann's invites us to reflect on the value of a well-founded word. Who said that the study of the language, of the languages of our elders, is far from reality? What is more real than the language with which we men communicate, now and in the past? Welcome to Navarra this new adopted Navarrese, Jürgen Untermann; born in Rheinfelden, in a multilingual country like Switzerland, perhaps he was predestined to investigate the cultural roots of another multilingual country like Spain.