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MARY R. HAAS Mary Haas, one of Edward Sapir's last surviving students, the guiding spirit of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, for nearly three decades, and the thirty-ninth president of the Linguistic Society of America (1963), died at her home in Berkeley on May 17, 1996. She was 86 and had been in declining health for several years. Haas was born in Richmond, Indiana, on January 23, 1910, into a Pennsylvania German family that had settled in the area a decade earlier. A bright student with musical talent, she attended Earlham College, a Quaker institution in Richmond, where she acquired a firm grounding in the liberal arts and majored in music and classics. A strong and enduring interest in linguistics was kindled during her college years by reading William Dwight Whitney's Life and growth of language and Henry Sweet's A primer ofphonetics, and she determined to pursue a graduate degree in comparative philology with Carl Darling Buck at the University of Chicago. She entered Chicago in the summer of 1930, and supporting herself with part-time work (including serving as a church organist), she took a full load of classes in Sanskrit, Old High German, Gothic, and the like, including, as she later recalled, an excruciatingly painful course in Germanic from Leonard Bloomfield: He gave [the course] in German [and] ... he had the idea that if he spoke slowly enough you would understand it, but of course it was just the other way around. (Haas 1986:385) Sapir, who had joined the Chicago faculty in 1925, was then at the height of his popularity and influence as a teacher, and Haas ventured into the Anthropology Department to take his introductory course. It was called Introduction to Linguistics or something, but it was actually his book Language. He lectured on all of the chapters . . . That's how I got started with Sapir, and of course I never lost interest. (Haas 1986:385) Although still formally enrolled in comparative philology she soon found herself caught up in the exciting company of Sapir's graduate students in anthropology and linguistics, most of whom were already doing serious work on American Indian languages. Prominent in this cohort were Harry Hoijer, Stanley Newman, Walter Dyk, and Morris Swadesh, the last a brilliant and charming young Chicagoan, only a year older than Haas, with whom she fell in love. They were married in the spring of 1931, and spent their honeymoon on Vancouver Island, he doing fieldwork on Nootka and Nitinat, she recording Nitinat songs and trying her hand at phonetic dictation. The analysis of a Nitinat text, ? Visit to the Other World,' authored jointly with Swadesh, was to be her first published scholarly work (Swadesh & Swadesh 1932).l The following fall Sapir left Chicago for Yale, where he had accepted the Sterling Professorship of Anthropology and Linguistics. He was able to make arrangements with Yale for three of his graduate students—Newman, Dyk, and Swadesh—to join him, and Haas, who of course went with Swadesh, formally transferred from comparative philology at Chicago to linguistics at Yale. (Hoijer, who took his Ph.D. in 1931, stayed on at Chicago as an instructor.) Joining the Chicago transplants at Yale were Carl Voegelin (a student of A. L. Kroeber's from California), Benjamin Whorf (an insurance adjuster from Hartford), and two men who already had doctorates, the Ro1 Haas maintained an interest in Nootkan phonology and grammar throughout her career and returned to the topic in two late papers (Haas 1969b, 1972). 826 MARY R. HAAS827 manee scholar George Trager and the Sanskritist Murray Emeneau, who had come to Yale to work with Franklin Edgerton and Edgar H. Sturtevant. In addition to these, Sapir also attracted several students in cultural anthropology, most significantly Willard (Nibs) Hill, Weston LaBarre, David Mandelbaum, and Beatrice Whiting. Nearly all of these men and women, fifteen or twenty years later, became the shapers of postwar American linguistics and anthropology. The essence of the Chicago-Yale 'Sapir School' of linguistics was a distinctively Americanist mixture of historical perspective and descriptivist rigor, enlivened by Sapir's personal interests in semantics, psychology, and social theory. Sapir required his graduate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 826-837
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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