Department History

History of Dow Hall

The Greek above the front door translates to ‘Friendship, the sweetest influence.’  It was a motto of the fraternity for which this building was built as their dormitory, as the initial Greek letter of each word spells out their name P(hi) G(amma) D(elta).

It seems Phi Gamma Delta originally had the Egyptian Revival building (the ‘Vernon Tomb’) built for them further down on Temple Street towards Trumbull in 1900 (according to a Yale Alumni Magazine ‘Throwback Thursday’ post from June 25, 2015).  This was eventually torn down in 1927 and is the current site of Helen Hadley Hall (graduate housing).

The current Dow Hall was in the process of being built in February 1914 for the Nu Deuteron chapter of PGD (they styled themselves as ‘Vernon Hall’), according to the Yale Sheffield Monthly newsletter (volume 20, page 225).  Judging by the car in front of the building in the undated sepia photo, the building was finished by 1920.  With the advent of the residential college system in 1933, Phi Gamma Delta sold the building to Yale in 1934, according to the Bulletin of Yale University 61:3 (page 59).

It’s unclear, but it seems that the University used the building as graduate housing after that, which you can see with all it’s requisite ivy in the color photo from 1941 (photos from the Phi Gamma Delta website).  The fraternity chapter itself disbanded in 1965, but was restarted in the 1990s as the senior secret society ‘The Order of Myth and Sword.’

The Linguistics Department moved from the third floor of HGS to Dow Hall (370 Temple Street) in the Summer of 2002. Before it was renovated for the Center for Language Study and linguistics, the building was used for two things: the upper floors were used as annex housing for Timothy Dwight College, and the first floor and basement were the University Treasurer’s office. The renovation was delayed for several months by the fact that the Treasurer’s office contained a huge walk-in safe, which was the one place on campus where they kept real money.  It was necessary to find somewhere to relocate that safe before they could begin the renovation (which involved almost totally gutting the building and putting in new floors, walls, staircases, etc. as well as the connector to 1 Hillhouse)

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.

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. Whitney, Edgar Sturtevant, Edward Sapir, Mary Haas, Leonard Bloomfield, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Murray Emeneau, Bernard Bloch, Warren Cowgill, Rulon Wells 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.

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.