CAPP001 - Capell, Arthur

Date Range28 March 1902 - 10 August 1986

Arthur Capell was born in Sydney on 28 March 1902 and attended North Sydney Boys High School before entering the University of Sydney in 1919 and graduating in 1922. He subsequently taught at several boys' school in the Sydney area and helped prepare some Latin and Greek primers. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1925 and remained for much of his life a devout parish priest while finding time for teaching and linguistic scholarship. He was a prolific publisher in both the clerical and linguistic fields.

Capell's linguistic influences came from a number of sources. One of earliest being the English schoolmaster and linguist Sydney Ray, with whom he worked in the 1920s. He was also influenced by the work on Melanesian languages of R.H. Codrington and the work on Oceania of Renward Brandsetter and Otto Dempwolf. As Peter Newton has noted: 'Their pioneering works inspired Capell to formulate his own theories on the genetic relationships between regional languages, the affinity between language and population movements, and suitable methods of modelling earlier language forms.'

1922Graduated from the University of Sydney with first class honours and the University Medal in Classics
1925Ordained into the Anglican ministry
1931Awarded Master of Arts in Classics at the University of Sydney
1932Appointed Professor A. P. Elkin's curate at St John's Theological College, in the parish of Morpeth
1935Commenced studies at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, under R.O. Winstedt.
1937Awarded PhD at the University of London on the linguistic history of south-eastern Papua
1938Dispatched to the Kimberleys by Professor A. P. Elkin to study Australian Aboriginal languages, working with Howard Coate, a local medical worker
1943Published: Capell, A., The Linguistic Position of South-eastern Papua, Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Sydney
1945Appointed to a newly created lecturer position at the University of Sydney
1949 - 1962Reader in Oceanic Studies at the University of Sydney
1956Published: A. Capell, A New Approach to Australian Linguistics, Sydney, University of Sydney for Oceania
1958Published: A. Capell, The Culture and Language of Futuna and Aniwa, New Hebrides, Sydney, University of Sydney
1961Attended Canberra conference to discuss the future of Aboriginal Studies; was a foundation member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies
1962Published: A. Capell, A Linguistic Survey of the South-Western Pacific., Nouma, New Caledonia, South Pacific Commission
1962Published: A. Capell, The Polynesian Language of Mae (Emwae), New Hebrides, Auckland, The Linguistic Society of New Zealand
1962Published: A. Capell, Some Linguistic Types in Australia: (Handbook of Australian Languages, Part 2), Sydney, University of Sydney
1962Retired from the University of Sydney
1968Published: A. Capell, G. J. Parker and A.J. Schtz, Papers in Linguistics of Melanesia, Canberra, Linguistic Circle of Canberra
1968Published: A. Capell [ed W. F. Ellis], What do we know of Tasmanian Language?, Launceston, Tasmania, Museum Committee, Launceston City Council
1969Published: A. Capell, A Survey of New Guinea Languages, Sydney, Sydney University Press
1969Published: A. Capell, Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of Sonsorol - Tobi, Sydney, University of Sydney
1969Published: A. Capell, Ann Chowning and S. A. Wurm, Papers in Linguistics of Melanesia. No. 2, Canberra, Australian National University
1969Published: A. Capell [et al], Papers in New Guinea Linguistics. No.9, Canberra, Australian National University
1970S. A. Wurm and D. C. Laycock (eds), Pacific Linguistic Studies in Honour of Arthur Capell, Canberra, Linguistic Circle of Canberra
1971Published: A. Capell, Arosi Grammar, Canberra, Linguistic Circle of Canberra
1971Published: A. Capell, Cave Painting Myths: Northern Kimberley, Sydney, University of Sydney
1972Published: A. Capell (ed), Linguistic Papers; Volume I: General, Volume II: Indonesia and New Guinea, Sydney, University of Sydney
1977F. L. S. Bell [with introduction by A. Capell], Tanga-English, English-Tanga Dictionary, Sydney, University of Sydney
1980Published: A. Capell and J. Layard, Materials in Atchin, Malekula: Grammar, Vocabulary and Texts, Canberra, Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University for Linguistic Circle of Canberra
28 March 1981Awarded a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) at the University of Sydney
1984Published: A. Capell, Futuna-Aniwa dictionary, with Grammatical Introduction, Canberra, Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University
1984Published: A. Capell and H. H. J. Coate, Comparative Studies in Northern Kimberley Languages, Canberra, Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University
ReferencesNewton, Peter, 'Arthur Capell (1902-1986)' Australian Dictionary of Biography, forthcoming edition, Melbourne University Press.

Newton, Peter, Movements and Structures: An Historical Review of Capell's Approach to Comparative Linguistics in Oceania. 2 volumes. Unpublished Honours Thesis, Macquarie University

Walsh, Michael, "Obituary" Australian Aboriginal Studies 1987 (1) pp 98-9.

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