Carl Meinhof

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Carl Meinhof, around 1870
Carl Meinhof, undated photo

Carl Friedrich Michael Meinhof (born July 23, 1857 in Barzwitz near Rügenwalde in Western Pomerania ; † February 11, 1944 in Greifswald , buried in the Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg) was a Protestant pastor and Africanist .

In 1909 Carl Meinhof held the first professorship for African Studies in Germany in Hamburg . Meinhof previously worked as a language teacher at the Department of Oriental Languages ​​at the University of Berlin. He retired in 1936 at the age of 79, and was succeeded by August Klingenoben .


Carl Meinhof was a son of the pastor and revival preacher Friedrich Meinhof (1800-1881) and his third wife Clara Christiane Giesebrecht (1819-1893). He studied at the universities in Erlangen and Greifswald . There he became a member of the Erlanger and Greifswalder Wingolf . He then continued his studies in Tübingen . In 1886 he became a pastor in Zizow , a Pomeranian village near Rügenwalde. In his free time he was engaged in philological studies. By chance he came into contact with African languages through a neighboring manor : he was supposed to give German lessons to a Duala boy who lived there . He was married to Elly Heyer (1858-1894) from 1882 to 1894 and from 1895 until his death in 1944 to Anna Kloss (1866-1944). Meinhof had a total of twelve children, three of whom died prematurely. Meinhof became a member of the NSDAP in May 1933 . In November 1933 he signed the German professors' confession of Adolf Hitler .

Scientific work

One of the most important works of Meinhof was a comparative grammar of the Bantu languages . Based on the pioneering work of Wilhelm Bleek , he developed a systematic collection and research of African languages ​​and traditions. For example, he recorded traditional African music with a phonograph in Tanzania as early as 1902 and published collections of African fairy tales .

Meinhof developed the linguistic Hamite theory further, according to which the light-skinned North African peoples and their descendants represent a “ master race ” more highly developed within Africa . In particular, he tried to prove that the Bantu peoples emerged from a merger of Hamitic and non-Hamitic African peoples. Likewise, the "Hottentots" (today: Nama ) arose from a merger of Hamites and "Bushmen" (today: San ).

Writings (monographs)

  • Outline of a phonology of the Bantu languages ​​together with instructions for the inclusion of Bantu languages. Leipzig 1899
  • The Christianization of the Languages ​​of Africa. Basel 1905
  • Basics of a comparative grammar of the Bantu languages. Berlin 1906
  • Textbook of the Nama language. Berlin 1909.
  • The Herero language in German South West Africa. Berlin 1909
  • The Swahili language in German East Africa. Berlin 1910
  • The Hamite languages. Friederichsen, Hamburg 1912
  • The language of the Duala in Cameroon. Berlin 1912
  • A study trip to Kordofan , Friederichsen, Hamburg 1916
  • as editor: African fairy tales. Diederichs, Jena 1917
  • The emergence of inflected languages. Berlin 1936
  • Basics of a comparative grammar of the Bantu languages. Second completely reworked edition . Eckhardt & Messtorff, Hamburg 1948 (published posthumously)


Web links

Commons : Carl Meinhof  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. 11 February 1944 died Rainer Hering:  MEINHOF, Carl Friedrich Michael. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 17, Bautz, Herzberg 2000, ISBN 3-88309-080-8 , Sp. 921-960.
  2. Complete directory of Wingolf, Lichtenberg 1991
  3. H.Meyer-Bahlburg / E. Wolff: African languages ​​in research and teaching, p. 60.