Winfred Philip Lehmann (23 June 1916, in Surprise, Nebraska – 1 August 2007, in Austin, Texas) was an American linguist noted for his work in historical linguistics, particularly Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic, as well as for pioneering work in machine translation.
After receiving B.A. in Humanities at the Northwestern College in Watertown in 1936, he went on to receive his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1938 and a Ph.D. in 1941, both in Germanic philology at the University of Wisconsin.
Early in his career, during World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as Officer-in-Charge of the Japanese Language School and Japanese instructor. After the war he became Assistant Professor in the Department of German at Washington University, and was recruited in 1949 to the University of Texas at Austin as an Associate Professor of Germanic Linguistics. He was promoted to a Full Professor in 1951, and chaired that department from 1953 to 1964. He was largely responsible for developing that program into the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas, and served as its first Chair, in the period 1964–1972.
He received Fulbright Research Fellowship to Norway in 1950–51, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972–73. He served as Director of the Georgetown English Language Program in Ankara, Turkey in 1955–56, as Chairman of the Linguistics Delegation to the People's Republic of China in 1974, and as Co-Chairman of the Commission on Humanities and Social Sciences to the People's Republic of China in 1981. He was elected President of the Association for Computational Linguistics in 1964. He is the only person to have served as both the President of the Linguistic Society of America, in 1973, and the Modern Language Association of America, in 1987.
Upon his retirement in 1986, scholars from Western Europe, the Soviet Union and the U.S. gathered at the University of Texas to honor him at an IREX Conference on Linguistic Reconstruction. The volume which grew from this conference, Reconstructing Languages and Cultures (1992, edited by Edgar Charles Polomé and Werner Winter), points to the worldwide impact of Lehmann's work on Indo-European and historical linguistics.
Lehmann was also honored by two other Festschrifts, in 1977 and in 1999.
In 2007, Lehmann received the "IAMT Award of Honor" (in memoriam) from the International Association for Machine Translation.
Beside being responsible for launching two extremely successful departments at the University of Texas, he is also credited for the establishment of the Linguistics Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as the Director from 1961 until his death.
His well-known books on Proto-Indo-European and historical linguistics include:
An important contribution was his Proto-Indo-European Syntax, the first and one of the few existing treatments of Proto-Indo-European syntax in a generative framework.
In his last book (2002), he assembled extensive data from the nominal and verbal systems, from the lexicon, phonology, and syntax of the ancient IE languages, to argue that Pre-Indo-European was active/stative in alignment, rather than nominative/accusative. With Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, Lehmann accounted for the similarity of the IE middle and perfect paradigms to the Hittite hi-conjugation by postulating an ancient stative ancestor for all three.
He authored over 50 books and special issues of journals as well as 250 scholarly articles. In the period 1951–1986 he directed approximately fifty doctoral dissertations. Since 1986 he was Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the UT-Austin.
His wife, Ruth Preston Miller Lehmann (died in 2000), was also a distinguished historical linguist.