A Brief History

The Linguistics Research Center (LRC) was founded by Prof. Winfred P. Lehmann in 1961. In the early days, research efforts at the LRC concentrated on Machine Translation (MT) -- the translation of texts from one human language to another with the aid of computers. After a hiatus ca. 1975-78, new funding led to the development of a new system with the same name, METAL, but with new sets of tools for linguists and vastly greater success, resulting in the delivery a production prototype then later a full-fledged commercial MT system. MT R&D continued at the LRC, with funding by various sponsors, until the mid-1990's; see Machine Translation at Texas for a brief history of MT R&D at the Center.

From its early years to the present, the LRC has mounted a number of smaller projects resulting in the publication of significant works relating to Indo-European languages and/or their common ancestor, Proto-Indo-European. The hallmark of this work has been the use of computers to transcribe texts and prepare them for print publication. Ancient works in Old Indic made available in electronic form include Rgveda-Samhitâ(1970-71), and Shatapatha, Maadhyandina Shaakha (1971), both by W.P. Lehman and H.S. Ananthanarayana (Austin: University of Texas) and now part of the TITUS text database.

In a series sponsored by the Committee on Research Activities of the Modern Language Association, grammars of Old Irish, Gothic, and Old French were published. The first of these was An Introduction to Old Irish, by R.P.M. & W.P. Lehmann (The Modern Language Association of America, 1975). These grammars set new standards for mastery of older languages, especially from the medieval period; they are designed for learning without instructors, though they are used in classroom courses as well.

A Mesoamerican Languages project was begun at the LRC in 1978. Languages of interest included Nahuatl, for which a dictionary was published, and Yucatec Maya. For a summary of this work, see: Mesoamerican Languages Project.

A prominent example of the LRC using computers to prepare texts for print publication is the book by Winfred P. Lehmann, A Gothic Etymological Dictionary (Leiden: Brill, 1986). The final print-ready version was produced with the aid of a laser printer (exotic new technology, in those days) using, for the various languages included in the entries, approximately 500 special characters -- many of them designed at the Center. This was the first major etymological dictionary for Indo-European languages to be produced with the aid of computers.

By far the most complex publication of its day was Astadhyayi of Panini, by Sumitra M. Katre (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987); this is an English translation, with commentary, of the fundamental Sanskrit grammar by Panini. Prior to this effort, Panini's grammar was available only in the original Sanskrit, and in a German translation from the early 19th century.

Ignoring many shorter publications, for example journal articles and conference proceedings, a list of books resulting from these and similar publication projects may be found in Books Prepared by the LRC.

In 1998, the Diebold Foundation funded a project to found this website; meanwhile, a separate project produced online tools for the study of Hebrew (see the Hebrew Language home page for more current information). In 2001, the Salus Mundi Foundation began funding the Early Indo-European Online (EIEOL) and other projects, notably the online Rigveda: Metrically Restored Text and web republication of several books by Winfred Lehmann (see Indo-European Languages and Historical Linguistics).

Founding LRC Director Winfred P. Lehmann died on August 1, 2007; obituary notices are available online at: Obit Notices. Jonathan Slocum was appointed Interim Director of the LRC, and served until his retirement in 2011. Since 2007, private donations have continued support for our work, including the Indo-European Lexicon project.

Current LRC projects concentrate on transcribing early Indo-European (IE) texts, developing language lessons based on them, and publishing on the world-wide web these and other materials (including lexica) related to the study of IE languages, of their common ancestor Proto-Indo-European, and of IE historical linguistics more generally. See the LRC Projects page for information about more recent & ongoing work.

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