Curt Wittlin

Distinguished Researcher Award - Fall 1999

The Distinguished Researcher Award honours a faculty member who has made a major contribution to knowledge or artistic creativity. The University has selected Curt Wittlin, Professor of Languages and Linguistics, as the Fall 1999 recipient of this award.

Professor Wittlin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (1960) from Humanistisches Gymnasium in Basel, Switzerland, where the benefits of learning Greek and Latin were stressed. He earned his Master's and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Basel in 1965 in Iberoromance philology, French linguistics and Italian literature.

Professor Wittlin is one of Canada's most prolific scholars in the humanities. As the leading expert outside Spain in medieval Catalan language and literature, he has been enlisted in the struggle to preserve the Catalan language, a minority language spoken by about eight million people in the autonomous regions of Catalonia in Barcelona, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

Following the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 and until General Franco's death in 1975, Spain's universities were purged of Catalan scholars. Professor Wittlin's research since the mid-60's has helped ensure the survival of Catalan medieval scholarship. As a Romance philologist, Professor Wittlin uses linguistics and culture to explain the meaning of medieval texts. He has uncovered common patterns of mistakes made by medieval translators in various Romance languages.

Since Professor Wittlin came to the University of Saskatchewan in 1967, he has published 12 books in 17 volumes. Nine of these books are editions of medieval Latin, Spanish and Catalan manuscripts. In many cases, they are the first printed edition of these manuscripts. He has also published more than 70 articles in refereed journals and books, as well as 17 articles in conference proceedings. He has been an invited speaker at 34 conferences and has contributed lectures at many other conferences.

Professor Wittlin's scholarly work has received recognition both within Canada and outside. In 1988, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the senior national body of distinguished Canadian scientists and scholars. Fellows are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences.

Spain's body of distinguished Catalan scholars has also honoured him. The Barcelona-based Institute of Catalan Studies judged his book Repertori d'expressions multinominals to be the best book in medieval Catalan studies written from 1988 to 1989. He became a Fellow of the Institute in 1997.

Another of his books - a critical edition of a medieval "bestseller" - was judged by the Spanish publishing house Serra d'Or to be the best 1996 book on Catalan studies written by a foreigner.

This year, the Institute of Catalan Studies awarded Professor Wittlin its prestigious International Catalonia Prize for life achievement in studies about Catalan language and culture. The award goes to scholars who are not Catalans.

Professor Wittlin's lifetime contribution to the study of Catalan language and literature has done much to make the University of Saskatchewan recognized in the scholarly world. He is a worthy recipient of this award.