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Henriette Walter, née Saada, was born in Sfax, Tunisia to a French mother and an Italian father. She learned multiple languages at a very early age. At home she spoke Italian, at school she spoke French, and in the streets she heard Arabic and Maltese spoken. She has said, "As a little girl, I liked the idea that an object could have multiple names, that emotions could be expressed in different ways." She is a fluent speaker of six languages and has worked with dozens of others. She studied English at the Sorbonne in Paris, where she met her future husband, Gérard Walter, a physics and chemistry teacher. The couple married in 1954 and had two children. Prof. Walter passed a competitive exam for a diploma from the International Phonetic Association in 1963 and received her doctoral degree in 1975.
She became a close collaborator of famed linguist André Martinet, and published a large number of writings, some of them for a general audience that brought her worldwide recognition. She is former director of the Phonology Laboratory at the École pratique des hautes études
and now professor emeritus of French at the University of Rennes, where she taught for many years. She was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1995 and Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1999.
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