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John Huehnergard

John Huehnergard
Born (1952-03-16) March 16, 1952 (age 71)
NationalityCanadian, Naturalized American
Known for

John Huehnergard (born March 16, 1952) is a Canadian-American specialist in Semitic languages, notable for his work on categorization, etymology, and historical linguistics.

Early life and education

Huehnergard was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and was raised in the nearby city of Waterloo, Ontario. He graduated from the Kitchener–Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School in 1970. He received a B.A. from Wilfrid Laurier University in 1974 and a Ph.D from Harvard University in 1979, where he studied with William L. Moran, Thomas O. Lambdin, and Frank Moore Cross.


Huehnergard began his teaching career at Columbia University as assistant professor there from 1978 to 1983. He was hired at Harvard University in 1983 as an associate professor and received tenure in 1988. He remained at Harvard as Professor of Semitic Philology until 2009, during which time he spent a year at Johns Hopkins University; from Harvard he moved to The University of Texas at Austin. He retired from teaching in May 2017.


Huehnergard is probably best known for his A Grammar of Akkadian,[1] now in its third edition. He is the author or editor of 9 other books, a special issue of the Journal of Language Contact, and over 100 articles and a dozen reviews on topics spanning the languages and cultures of the ancient Near East, particularly focused on categorization, etymology, and historical linguistics. He supplied the etymologies of all English words with Semitic origins to the 4th edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000, revised in the 5th edition, 2011), plus the Appendix of Semitic Roots and the article, "Proto-Semitic Language and Culture", in both editions. In 2019 he co-edited The Semitic Languages,[2] and wrote the chapter on Proto-Semitic, summarizing a lifetime of research on the topic.

He is known to an entirely different audience as one of the authors of Henry David Thoreau: Speaking for Nature,[3] and in the same vein an article on the "Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle".[4]

Honors and awards

Huehnergard was a fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in 2002 and held a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005–2006. He was honored with a Festschrift on his 60th birthday (Language and Nature, ed. N. Pat-El and R. Hasselbach; University of Chicago Press, 2012). He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2014[5] and the Edward Ullendorff Medal from the British Academy in 2018.[6][7][8] He was President of the American Oriental Society in 2017–2018.


  1. ^ Huehnergard, John (2018). A Grammar of Akkadian (3rd ed.). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-941-8.
  2. ^ Huehnergard, John; Pat-El, Na'ama, eds. (2019). The Semitic Languages, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 9780415731959.
  3. ^ Henry David Thoreau: Speaking for Nature, with Richard K. Walton. DVD. Concord, MA: Three Rivers Productions.
  4. ^ Huehnergard, John. "Biodiversity Corner: Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle," in Carlisle (Ma.) Mosquito, July 21, 2006, p. 14. Reprinted in Who’s Who in the Natural World: Selections from a 10-year Ramble through a Corner of New England, by Kay Fairweather (Carlisle, MA: Carlisle Communications, 2012) 124–25.
  5. ^ "University to bestow seven honorary degrees at 519th Convocation" UChicago News, May 27, 2014
  6. ^ Edward Ullendorff Medal Recipients
  7. ^ "Edward Ullendorff Medal"
  8. ^ "John Huehnergard Awarded 2018 Edward Ullendorff Medal by the British Academy", August 20, 2018
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John Huehnergard
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