Log In

Mary Rosamond Haas Edit Profile


Mary Rosamund Haas was an American linguist who specialized in North American Indian languages, Thai, and historical linguistics.


Mrs. Haas was born in Richmond, Indiana, United States, on January 23, 1910.


Mary Haas attended high school and Earlham College in Richmond. Mrs. Haas undertook graduate work on comparative philology at the University of Chicago. She studied under Edward Sapir, whom she would follow to Yale. She began a long career in linguistic fieldwork, studying various languages during the summer months.

Over the ten-year period from 1931 to 1941, Mrs. Haas studied the Wakashan language, Nitinat (Ditidaht), as well as a number of languages which were mainly originally spoken in the American southeast: Tunica, Natchez, Creek, Koasati, Choctaw, Alabama, and Hichiti. Her first published paper, A Visit to the Other World, a Nitinat Text, written in collaboration with Morris Swadesh, was published in 1933.

She completed her Doctor of Philosophy degree in linguistics at Yale University in 1935 at age 25, with a dissertation titled A Grammar of the Tunica Language.


After receiving her doctorate from Yale University in 1935, Mrs. Haas conducted her research in the southeastern United States with the lone surviving speaker of Tunica in Louisiana. As a result of her work, she wrote several books about that native language, including Tunica, Tunica Dictionary, and Tunica Texts.

During World War II, the United States government viewed the study and teaching of Southeast Asian languages as important to the war effort, and under the auspices of the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of California at Berkeley, Mary Haas developed a program to teach the Thai language. Her authoritative Thai-English Students' Dictionary, published in 1964, is still in use.

Mary Haas also spent time from 1940 to 1948 as a lecturer at Berkeley teaching the Burmese and Thai languages, holding a regular post beginning in 1948, becoming a full professor of linguistics at that institution in 1957. In 1953, Mrs. Haas began conducting the Survey of California Indian Languages which she continued to coordinate for most of her life.

She retired from Berkeley in 1977, and in 1984 she was elected a Berkeley Fellow. Mary Haas died at her home in Berkeley, California, on May 17, 1996, age 86.


  • Mrs. Haas gained prominence for her field work documenting native American languages, including Natchez, Tunica, and Creek-Seminole.

    Mary 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 doctoral students.

    As a founder and director of the Survey of California Indian Languages, she advised nearly fifty dissertations, including those of many linguists who would go on to be influential in the field, including William Bright (Karok), William Shipley (Maidu), Robert Oswalt (Kashaya), Karl Teeter (Wiyot), Margaret Langdon (Diegueño), Sally McLendon (Eastern Pomo), Victor Golla (Hupa), Marc Okrand (Mutsun), Kenneth Whistler (Proto-Wintun), Douglas Parks (Pawnee and Arikara), William Jacobsen (Washo), and others.



She married Morris Swadesh, a fellow linguist, in 1931. They divorced in 1937. She married for the second time Heng R. Subhanka, but they divorced in 1949.

Morris Swadesh - linguist

Heng R. Subhanka