The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


At their July, 1961 meeting, the Regents of the University authorized the creation of a new Department of Linguistics Page  180which became a budgetary reality in the academic year 1963-64. Before 1963, courses and degree programs in linguistics were implemented by an interdepartmental program in linguistics.

Linguistics at Michigan figures prominently in the formative period of the discipline in this country. The Linguistic Society of America, founded in 1924, lists among its founding members three faculty members at the University of Michigan: Professor Charles C. Fries (English), Professor Samuel Moore (English), and Professor Fred Newton Scott (Rhetoric and Journalism). Another founding member, Professor Hans Kurath, joined the University at a later time. Of these, Professor Fries is the major early figure in linguistics at Michigan, as the initiator and long-time Director of the Program in Linguistics, the founder of the English Language Institute, and the editor of the Early Modern English Dictionary. Professor Kurath succeeded Professor Fries as Director of the Program in Linguistics.

The Program in Linguistics was set up and supervised by a Committee on Linguistics appointed by the Graduate School. The Directors of the Program were: Charles C. Fries (1945-49), Hans Kurath (1949-52), Albert H. Marckwardt (1952-53, 1954-63), and Joseph K. Yamagiwa (1953-54), who also served as Acting Director of the Program in 1961-62 and as Acting Chairman of the nascent but still unbudgeted department in 1952-53.

The members of the Committee on Linguistics, although officially appointed by the Graduate School, were elected annually by a group called the Linguistics Staff. The Linguistics staff, which by 1963 numbered 33, consisted of faculty members trained in linguistics and engaged in teaching and/or research in linguistics from eight units: the Classical Studies, English, Far Eastern, Germanic, Near Eastern, Romance and Slavic departments, and the Communication Sciences Program. Teaching in linguistics was handled by the various departments having qualified personnel. Responsibility for staffing the four or five basic courses in general linguistics was assumed mainly by the English Department, with courses usually cross-listed in Anthropology although these basic courses were also occasionally offered by faculty members in other departments, e.g. the Near East Department. Beside Page  181the basic courses in general linguistics, the various language departments offered courses in the history and structure of the languages with which they dealt. The Committee on Linguistics, besides seeing that appropriate courses were offered regularly by the various departments, had as its main function the management of the degree programs in linguistics.

The Department of Linguistics was founded in 1963 by the Committee on the Organization of Linguistic Activities (COLA). A major question facing COLA was whether to recommend a linguistics department that would or would not include all elementary language instruction. The latter was recommended. The department did, however, take on some language instruction, beginning with Hindi/Urdu, Sanskrit, and Thai and its language teaching activities have grown as the department has become the home for South and Southeast Asian language instruction and also for instruction in "other" languages, i.e. languages which do not easily fit into the established language departments.

It had been assumed that Professor Marckwardt would be the chairman of the new department, since he had chaired the Program for many years and had been a leader in the movement to change the Program to a department. But when he accepted an appointment at Princeton, it was decided to invite Professor Herbert H. Paper of the Near East Department to be the first chairman of the new department. At the conclusion of his term in 1968, he was followed by John C. Catford who was chairman 1968-71 and William J. Gedney, 1971-75.

As time has passed, the department has also attracted a number of faculty who, though budgeted in other units, have become associated with the department through honorary appointments. These faculty members, particularly those budgetarily in the English Language Institute and also those in Anthropology, have provided the department with an extra measure of strength and of flexibility with regard to course offerings.

For some years the interdepartmental committee, now renamed the Interdepartmental Advisory Committee (IAC), elected by the Linguistics staff, continued to manage the Page  182degree programs. As the department grew in size, strength, and self-confidence, more and more of the old Committee's functions were taken over by internal committees within the department, so that after a period of some years the elected IAC was reduced to managing the programs of only a few students who were still working under the old requirements that prevailed before the founding of the department. When at last only a couple of these students were left on the books the IAC was discontinued. This change had the unfortunate consequence that old Linguistics Staff no longer had any real power or function, since there were no longer any elections for the IAC and no IAC to report to the Linguistics Staff. The last meetings of the Linguistics Staff occurred in connection with planning for the 1973 Linguistic Institute.

The department was initially housed in quarters on the second floor of Angell Hall. In 1967, it moved to rented quarters on the second floor of the Gunn Building, a commercial building on East Liberty Street. This was an awkward arrangement, not only because the department was off campus, but a number of faculty members were in offices in the basement of the east wing of the Frieze Building. In 1972, the department moved into the quarters it occupies today, on the ground floor of the east wing of the Frieze Building.

Linguistic Institutes were begun by the Linguistic Society of America in the late 1920s, when four were held, two at Yale (1928, '29) and two at CCNY (1930, '31). These are university summer sessions in linguistics staffed by local faculty and visitors. After a few years' lapse, occasioned by the depression, Professor Fries revived the Linguistic Institute, bringing it to Michigan in the summer of 1936. It has now been at Michigan for 18 summers.

The English Language Institute, like the interdepartmental Program in Linguistics, was founded by the late Professor Fries. The ELI provides intensive, noncredit instruction in English for foreign students. It has also been a center for research in teaching English as a second language and for the production of teaching materials, as well as being an important site for the training of graduate students. When the Regents established the new department in 1961, the ELI was incorporated as a unit within the department.

Page  183South and Southeast Asian languages are taught. In its first year, the department offered courses in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, and Thai, and the next year added Indonesian. At present, on foundation money from the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, the department is offering Tagalog and Tamil. Burmese, Marathi, and Pali and Prakrit have also been offered occasionally on a special basis, and Old Javanese is offered in connection with the Indonesian program. The department also offers courses on the literatures and religions of the South and Southeast Asian area. The department's work in modern South and Southeast Asian languages involves close cooperation with the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, which administers the fellowship program in these languages funded by the federal government and provides major support funding for instruction.

Since the beginning, the department has been regarded as the proper home for instruction in any language which does not fall within the scope of the language departments. It has also offered instruction from time to time in a disparate range of languages including Hungarian, modern Irish, Lithuanian, and Yiddish. Remedial English as a foreign language has been offered regularly since 1966. Finally, since 1973 the department has had a regular program in Ojibwa, offered in cooperation with the Ann Arbor Native American community.