Department History

Linguistics was originally run as an interdepartmental graduate program, first directed by Edgar Sturtevant from Classics and then by Franklin Edgerton, Prof. of Sanskrit, who was a member of the Dept of Oriental Languages, an original occupant of HGS. Owing to a dispute between Edgerton and Albrecht Goetze (Prof. of Hittite), Oriental Languages was split into Indic & Far Eastern Languages and Near Eastern Languages (early 1950s), and the Linguistics Program remained with Edgerton in Indic and Far Eastern Languages.

When Edgerton retired in 1952, Bernard Bloch (Prof. of Japanese) took over the program and chairmanship of the department. In 1959 Linguistics emerged as a budgetary, independent department. When Bloch died in the early 1960s, Samuel Martin became chairman, and under coaxing from John Ross, then a Yale undergraduate, a linguistics major was formed in Yale College. Below is a list of Chairs over the years:

Yale University boasts a long history of research in languages and linguistics. The roster of distinguished scholars who have contributed to this tradition includes W. D. WhitneyEdgar SturtevantEdward SapirMary HaasLeonard BloomfieldBenjamin Lee WhorfMurray EmeneauBernard BlochWarren CowgillRulon WellsStanley Insler, and many others.

The first doctorate in linguistics was granted by Yale University in 1930, and linguistics has been taught in the present departmental structure since 1961. 

The Linguistics Department moved to its current location in Dow Hall in the Summer of 2002. Dow Hall’s history is itself quite interesting.

Haskins Laboratories has been affiliated with Yale since 1970. Yale and Haskins have been at the forefront of research in the fields of articulatory phonology and phonetics.