Pent Nurmekund

Pent Nurmekund (until 1936 Arthur Roosmann, 16 December 1906 – 28 December 1996) was a linguist, founder of the Centre for Oriental Studies at the University of Tartu, associate professor at the University of Tartu and poet writing in the Mulgi dialect.

Nurmekund was born in Kilingi parish in Pärnu County. Due to the First World War, he began schooling as late as at the age of 12. He completed Viljandi Boys’ Gymnasium in 1928. Two years later, he entered the University of Tartu with the aim to study medicine but then became interested in linguistics. He was primarily fascinated by Romance and Germanic languages and comparative linguistics.

Nurmekund graduated from the University of Tartu in 1935 with the degree of Master of Philology. He managed to get a stipend of the Humboldt-Stiftung, which enabled him to continue his education in German universities. In the pre-war time, he Estonianised his name to Pent Nurmekund, choosing the name of a small territory of prehistoric Estonia for his surname. When World War II broke out, he was collecting materials for his doctoral thesis in France with a stipend from the University of Tartu. He fled from there through Belgium and Denmark back to Estonia. During World War II, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Tartu. Early in 1944, he was recruited to the German Army. In the same year, he was imprisoned by the Red Army. Late in 1946, he managed to flee from the prison camp to Estonia. He settled in Pärnu and worked as a language teacher at Pärnu Secondary School No. 2 and the rural schools of Sindi and Pootsi. He was also employed by the consultancy unit of the University of Tartu in Pärnu. From 1955, he could connect his life with Tartu as the university was looking for someone skilled in Chinese. In 1956, Pent Nurmekund founded the Centre for Oriental Studies at the University of Tartu. Nurmekund was said to have been able to translate from nearly 80 languages and speak up to 60 languages.

All the 29 poems in Kõllanõmme (1996), Nurmekund’s only belletristic work, have been written in the Mulgi dialect in which the author felt at home.  The poems follow free rhyme schemes. Their themes are memories of childhood and youth, the pastures, forest groves, stream banks and village lanes of the Mulgimaa area, sauna, parents and erstwhile friends. There are verses rendered from Chinese, Japanese and Yiddish poetry. The author’s personal experiences are sometimes generalised into images containing timeless truths.  The poetry collection was printed in 100 copies only; therefore, it has acquired bibliophilic value.

L. P. (Translated by I. A.)

Books in Estonian

Kõllanõmme. Tartu: EÜS Veljesto kirjastus, 1996. 43 lk.

Keeltemaailm. Tartu: EÜS Veljesto kirjastus, 1997. 113 lk.

About Pent Nurmekund
Ühe miljonäri lugu. Nurmekunna-nimelise Germanistika Sihtasutuse mälestus- ja tänuraamat. Rakvere: VR Kirjastus, 2003, 90 lk.
Ott Kurs (koostaja), Pent Nurmekund – keeletark ja õpetaja. Tartu: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2014, 558 lk.