His wide-ranging interests have also included American Indian languages. He served for many years as editor of the International Journal of American Linguistics and did field work on Quileute and Ojibwa. He also studied linguistic aspects of braille.
Hamp's scholarship is characterized by the densely argued, narrowly focused note, essay and review, generally consisting of a few pages. He has written more than 3,500 articles and reviews, and nearly every important aspect of historical linguistics has been dealt with, often multiple times, in Hamp's writings.
He is the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago and in spite of his advanced age, he continues to write, edit, speak and travel at select meetings and conferences, and remains an Associate Editor of the journal Anthropological Linguistics.
Born in London in 1920, Hamp attended Tome School as a young boy and entered Amherst College at age 16 where he received his BA in 1942. He served in the U.S. Army and after being discharged in 1947 resumed his studies, receiving an MA (1948) and PhD (1954) both from Harvard University. Among Hamp's teachers at Harvard were Joshua Whatmough and Kenneth H. Jackson.
Hamp spent his entire academic career on the faculty of the University of Chicago, which he joined in 1950 and from which he retired in 1991. At Chicago, he is the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics, where he served as chair from 1966 to 1969.
Hamp also held appointments at the University of Chicago in the departments of Psychology and Slavic Languages and Literatures, as well as in the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World. He served as director for the Center for Balkan and Slavic Studies from 1965 to 1991.
He was a visiting fellow and faculty member at a number of institutions throughout the world, including the University of Michigan; the University of Wisconsin; the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; the University of Edinburgh; and the Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodër, Albania. In 1960, he held the Hermann and Klara H. Collitz Professorship for Comparative Philology at the Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute at the University of Texas.
Hamp has also been a prodigious lecturer, and among the invited talks he has given are the Rudolf Thurneysen Memorial Lecture at the University of Bonn and the James W. Poultney Lecture at Johns Hopkins University.
Hamp's extensive career has brought him recognition from multiple disciplines in language studies, including six Festschriften: one in general linguistics, two in Balkan studies, one in Native American languages, one in Indo-European linguistics and one in Celtic studies. These works include Studies in Balkan Linguistics to Honor Eric P. Hamp on his Sixtieth Birthday, Folia Slavica 4, 2-3, published in 1981 and edited by Howard I. Aronson and Bill J. Darden; Celtic Language, Celtic Culture: A Festschrift for Eric P. Hamp, published in 1990 and edited by A.T. E. Matonis and Daniel F. Melia; and Scritti in onore di Eric Pratt Hamp per il suo 90. compleanno, edited by Giovanni Belluscio and Antonio Mendicino of the University of Calabria and published in 2010 (ISBN 9 788874 581016).
Hamp is a member of many academies and learned societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the Albanian Academy of Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates from Amherst College, University of Wales, the University of Calabria, the University of Delhi, and the University of Edinburgh.
On his 92nd birthday in 2012, Posta Shqiptare, the national postal service of Albania, honored Hamp with a 50 lekë stamp in a series commemorating foreign Albanologists, linguists who have studied the Albanian language. Hamp was the only living Albanologist honored in the series, the two other commemorated linguists being Norbert Jokl and Holger Pedersen.
Author: A Glossary of American Technical Linguistic Usage, 3d rev. ed., 1966, Vaccarizzo Albanese Phonology, 1993; (with others) Language and Machines, 1966; co-editor Readings in Linguistics I & II, abridged ed., 1995, Languages and Areas: Studies presented to George V. Bobrinskoy, 1967, Themes in Linguistics: The 1970s, 1973; advisory editor: Foundations of Language 1964-74, Studies in Language, 1974–79, General Linguistics, 1966–91, Papers in Language and Lit., 1965–92, Journal Linguistics, 1971–81, Journal Indo-European Studies, 1972—, Folia Linguistica Historica, 1978–98, Ann. of Armenian Linguistics, 1978—, Anthropological Linguistics, 1981—, Etudes Celtiques, 1982—, Journal Historical Linguistics and Philology, 1982–90, Glossologia (Athens), 1983–99, Jewish Language Rev. (Haifa), 1983, Medieval Language Rev., 1991—, Linguistics Abstracts, 1985, 95, Voprosy Jazykoznanija (Moscow), 1988–92, Studia Indogermanica, 1990—, Albanica, 1991–93; associate editor: International Journal Am. Linguistics, 1967–92, emeritus editor, 1992—, Native American Texts Series, 1974—, founding editor; Atlas Linguarum Europae, 1984—; section head comparative and hist. linguistics: Celtic and Albanian sections Modern Language Association Ann. Bibliography, 1969–82; advisor: Encyclopedia Brit., 1969–2000, member advisory committee, 1985–2000; member adv. board and contributor Pergamon-Aberdeen Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 1988–94; member Advisory Board Slavia Centralis, 2009—; adv. and project linguist Braille Reading and Language Programs and Braille Research Center, Am. Printing House for the Blind, 1977–96, member International English Braille Linguistics committee, 1994—; editor for etymologies: Random House Unabridged Dictionary (rev. ed.); Participant in Yeniseic-Tlingit-Athabaskan Familial Proof, Tokyo, Leipzig and Alaska 2004,-06, 08, 10; author ca. 1,500 articles in field.