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Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti: Wikis


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Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti

Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti (19 September 1774 – 15 March 1849) was an Italian cardinal and famed linguist and hyperpolyglot. Born and educated in Bologna, he completed his theological studies before he had reached the minimum age for ordination as a priest; he was ordained in 1797. In the same year, he became professor of Arabic at the University of Bologna. He later lost the position for refusing to take the oath of allegiance required by the Cisalpine Republic, which governed Bologna at the time.



In 1803 he was appointed assistant librarian of the Institute of Bologna, and soon afterwards was reinstated as professor of Oriental languages and of Greek. The chair was suppressed by the viceroy in 1808, but again rehabilitated on the restoration of Pope Pius VII in 1814. Mezzofanti held this post until he left Bologna to go to Rome in 1831 as a member of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide), the Catholic Church's governing body for missionary activities. In 1833, he succeeded Angelo Mai as Custodian-in-Chief of the Vatican Library, and in 1838 was made cardinal of the title of St. Onofrio al Gianicolo and director of studies in the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

List of languages spoken

Mezzofanti was well-known for being a hyperpolyglot who fluently spoke thirty-nine languages [1]. Also, the study by Russell indicates that many of the dialects are so different that they actually should be seen as a separate language. Classifying the languages and dialects according to today's language system, over a 150 years later, would be a separate study. The list, in the conclusion of his study:

"Languagesfrequently tested, and spoken with rare excellence."
1 Hebrew
2 Rabbinical Hebrew
3 Arabic
4 Cbaiaee
5 Coptic
6 Ancient Armenian
7 Modern Armenian
8 Persian
9 Turkish
10 Allmnese
11 Maltese
12 Greek
13 Romaic
14 Latin
15 Italian (passim.)
16 Spanish
17 Portuguese
18 French
19 German
20 Swedish
21 Danish
22 Dutch
24 English
25 Illyrian
26 Russian
27 Polish
28 Czechish, or Bohemian
29 Magyar
30 Chinese

"Stated to have been spoken fluently, but hardy sufficiently tested."
31 Svriac
32 G'eez
33 Amarinna
34 Hindostani
35 Guzarattee
36 Basque
37 Wallachian
38 Calitornian
39 Algonquin


  1. ^ Charles William Russell, Life of the Cardinal Mezzofanti -Facsimile copy of the 1st edition (London, Longman &Co, 1858), page 467

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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