Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Louis Hjelmslev and Jens Holt

Jens Holt who succeeded Hjelmslev as an associate professor in Aarhus in 1937, is typically considered to be a loyal but uninteresting disciple of Hjelmslev. Hjelmslev lived in Aarhus for some years (1934-137), where he suddenly moved back to Copenhagen in 1937, when he was offered a professorship at the University of Copenhagen. After Hjelmslev, Holt was employed in the Linguistics department as an associate professor in 1938 at Aarhus University. It is from 1938 that we have the first letter from Holt to Hjelmslev, and they correspond with each other until Hjelmslev's death in 1965.

Original letters and carbon copies from the letters between Holt and Hjelmslev can be found at both the Royal Library in Copenhagen and the Archive of University History in Aarhus. In this correspondence, we see how a mutual professional respect for each other's work was expressed. We also see how Hjelmslev functions as a teacher and Holt as adept in their glossematic discussions. This is expressed in Hjelmslev's long explanations in letters replying to Holt's questions about glossematics.

They also discuss other topics such as:

  • University policy
  • Distribution of syllabus per language
  • The structure of the linguistics education in Copenhagen and Aarhus
  • Congresses and meetings
  • On glossematics in connection with Holt's publications - in the years 1943-1946, for example, we see a focused correspondence on "pleremic"
  • The war situation in Denmark 1939-1945
  • Private and family relationships

Their relationship was rooted in a common interest in structural linguistics, and Hjelmslev makes himself available for Holt's questions. They also cared for each other as individuals, and we can see a friendship that develops over time, as they often met with each other's families. They joke and show sympathy through rough times.

In the correspondence between Holt and Hjelmslev, we clearly see how Holt functions as a conversation partner (as opposed to discussion partners such as Eli Fischer-Jørgensen and Paul Diderichsen). The correspondence between Hjelmslev and Holt contains interesting and practical contributions to the solution of analytical problems in structuralist linguistics, which we get through Hjelmslev's lengthy explanations.