Mary R. Haas

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Mary Rosamond Haas (January 12, 1910 — May 17, 1996) was an American linguist who specialized in North American Indian languages, Thai, and historical linguistics. She was a student of Edward Sapir and Franz Boas.


Haas was born in Richmond, Indiana, where she grew up and attended both high school and college. In 1930-1931 she undertook graduate work at the University of Chicago in comparative philology. She published her first paper in 1933, A Visit to the Other World, a Nitinat Text, a collaboration with Morris Swadesh (to whom she would later be married for a time). She went on to get her Ph.D. in linguistics from Yale (1931-1935), writing her doctoral dissertation on the Tunica American Indian language, entitled A Grammar of the Tunica Language. Haas worked with the last fluent speaker of Tunica, Sesostrie Youchigant, producing extensive texts and vocabularies.

Shortly afterwards, she conducted fieldwork with the last two speakers of the Natchez language in Oklahoma, Watt Sam and Nancy Raven, resulting in extensive unpublished field notes that constitute the most reliable source of information on the language. Shortly after this, she conducted extensive fieldwork on the Creek language as well, and was the first modern linguist to collect extensive texts in the language. Most of her notes on Creek and Natchez remain unpublished, though they have begun to be used by contemporary linguists.

Haas was noted for her dedication to teaching linguistics, and to the role of the linguist in language instruction. Her student Karl V. Teeter pointed out in his obituary of Haas that she trained more Americanist linguists than her former instructors Edward Sapir and Franz Boas combined: she supervised fieldwork in Americanist linguistics by more than 100 Ph.D. students.

Mary Haas was a pioneer in the study of the Thai language. World War II caused a need for speakers of Asian languages, so in 1941 Haas began work on the phonology and syntax of Thai at the University of Michigan. In 1942-1943, while continuing her research in Thai, she was also an instructor of oriental languages there.

Haas died on May 17, 1996 in Alameda County, California, at the age of 86.


  • 1932, with Morris Swadesh. "A visit to the other world; a Nitinat text". IJAL 7:195-208.
  • 1941. "Tunica". Handbook of American Indian Languages, vol. 4. New York: Augustin Publishers.
  • 1943. "The linguist as a teacher of languages". Language 19:203-208.
  • 1950. "Tunica texts". University of California Publications in Linguistics, vol. 6. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • 1953. "The application of linguistics to language teaching". Anthropology Today, ed. Kroeber, pp. 807-18. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 1954. Thai Reader, Washington, D.C.: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • 1955. "Thai vocabulary". Program in Oriental Languages, A:2. Washington, D. C.: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • 1958. "The tones of four Tai dialects". Bull. Inst. Hist. Philol. 29:817-26.
  • 1962. "What belongs in a bilingual dictionary? In Problems in Lexicography, eds. F. W. Householder and S. Soporta. IJAL 28:45-50
  • 1964. Thai-English Student's Dictionary. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 1969. The Prehistory of Languages. Paris: Mouton.
  • 1969, with H. R. Subhanka. Spoken Thai, books I and II. Ithaca, N.Y.: Spoken Language Services.