Thursday, September 03, 2009

Isaac Waisberg

Dear Mr. Wong,

I was looking for articles by Jacques Barzun in an online database and came across this letter which appeared in the Spectator in March 6, 1964:

SIR,---You wondered how a 'PhD in Cornish' can have been awarded to a candidate at Columbia University. The language being 'virtually extinct... who, then, examined him?' It suffices to ask how the thing is done when a PhD is taken in Latin, Sanskrit, or Hittite---all more than virtually extinct. The degree that aroused your skepticism was actually in Linguistics; the dissertation bore upon a twelfth-century Cornish-Latin lexicon, and was titled 'The Old Cornish Vocabulary.' With it and some nationalistic fire, it should be possible to have a great literary revival, a sovereign State, a Parliament, and an atomic pile.


I thought you might like it.

Isaac W.