2017 Melissa Axelrod (University of New Mexico)

In recognition of her contributions to both the field of linguistics and to the speakers of Koyukon, Dene, Tanoan, and Ixil. Her career is an example of how, with deep dedication, abundant goodwill, and keen insight, it is possible to succeed on both sides of the putative divide between academia and community. Working with elders and preschoolers, teachers and farmers, political leaders and genocide survivors, she has engaged in projects that are both practical and innovative - from authoring dictionaries, grammatical descriptions, and research articles, to training several generations of linguists to follow her example in the very best traditions of fieldwork (including several PhD students who are themselves members of Native American communities). In short, Professor Axelrod embodies the very spirit of the Hale Award. She is an inspiration to students, colleagues, and collaborators alike.

2016 Nora C. England (University of Texas at Austin)

For a lifetime commitment to the study of endangered languages and to the communities that speak those languages. Her commitment extends from Mam in particular, more broadly to the Mayan languages, and still broader yet to all the indigenous languages of Latin America. Her dedication to those languages is manifest through her own research, through her collaboration with indigenous communities to describe, document, and revitalize their languages, and through her 30-year commitment to educating native-speaker linguists. Her career is a model of how linguists can work with native-speaker communities to advance linguistic research, to preserve and document the world’s languages, and to promote diversity within the profession by educating native-speaker linguists.

2015 Anvita Abbi (Jawarhalal Nehru University, Emerita)

Professor Anvita Abbi of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi has devoted decades of work to documenting the minority languages of India, evaluating their status, and training students in fieldwork and language documentation. She is perhaps best known for her recent outstanding work on the Great Andamanese language, a language on the verge of extinction. She has compiled a rich record of the language, including a dictionary, a grammar, and book on ethno‐ornithology.

This work brought with it great challenges, with few speakers and difficult living conditions. Her nominator speaks of her Herculean achievement in carrying out documentation of a previously barely documented language to this level of sophistication and comprehensiveness, commenting on how it rings of Ken Hale’s values.

For outstanding lifetime contributions to the documentation and description of languages of India, with particular note of her extraordinary contributions to the documentation of the Great Andamanese language, a moribund language that is a key isolate in understanding the peopling of Asia and Oceania.

2014 Claire Bowern (Yale University)

Claire Bowern and her work is the embodiment of the qualities that the Linguistic Society of America would like to see in a Hale award winner. Claire has been involved with documentation of the Bardi language in Australia since 1999, beginning while she was still an undergraduate at Australia National University. She led an oral history project, producing a large corpus of the language. She has published academic material and community materials both, including a gazetteer, narratives, a dictionary, and a learners guide. The nomination letter says that ‘Claire Bowern and her work represent the true spirit of Ken’s devotion to endangered languages in particular and linguistics at large. Her work is an inspiration to all of us, and especially to young scholars in our field.’

This award is presented in recognition of exemplary work on the documentation of Bardi, a highly endangered language, with outstanding contributions to the community and to linguistics.

2012 Nancy Dorian

For research on Scots Gaelic that spans a period of almost fifty years—perhaps the most sustained record of research on any endangered language; and for her effective advocacy for the cause of endangered language preservation and revitalization. Hers was one of the earliest and is still one of the most prominent voices raised in support of endangered languages.

2011 Nicholas Evans

 The Linguistic Society of America is pleased to present the Kenneth L. Hale Award for 2011 to Dr. Nicholas Evans, Professor and Head of the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific. The Award is given for outstanding linguistic scholarship undertaken by a junior or senior scholar that documents a particular endangered or no longer spoken language or language family. Nick Evans has long conducted fieldwork on Aboriginal languages of northern Australia and has recently begun a research project on the little-studied languages of the Morehead Region, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. He has published a grammar of Kayardild (1995) and a two-volume grammar entitled Bininj Gun-Wok: a pan-dialectal grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku, and Kune (2003); he has also published dictionaries of Kayardild (1992) and Dalabon (2004, with Francesca Merlan and Maggie Tukumba). In addition, he has co-edited (with Felix Ameka and Alan Dench) an important book on grammar-writing, Catching language: the standing challenge of grammar writing. His 2009 book, Dying words: endangered languages and what they have to tell us, has had a significant impact, both within and outside linguistics, on the understanding of what will be lost if the world's endangered languages continue to vanish. Nick's contributions to the documentation of endangered languages make him a most deserving recipient of this award.


2006 Robert W. Young

The Navajo language (with Willie Morgan, 1980, 1987) and supplementary volume, The Analytic lexicon of Navajo (with Sally Midgette, 1992)


2002 Ives Goddard and Kathleen Bragdon

Native Writings in Massachusett (APS, 1988)

 Ives Goddard and Kathleen Bragdon's Native writings in Massachusett (APS, 1988) is, in the words of Ken Hale, a tour de force. Volume 1 contains the rich 17th- and 18th-century documentation of the Massachusett language (also known as Wampanoag or Natick), including the native language writings with translations and the Eliot Bible and documents related to it along with discussion of the process involved in assembling, transcribing, and translating the original documents; Volume 2 is a companion grammar. This outstanding body of linguistic knowledge provides resources for original research on Wampanoag. In addition, this text has been critical for the revitalization of this language that has not been spoken in many years. A citation would be incomplete without mention of the recent efforts by Jessie Fermino to revive the language, work that could never have occurred without the foundation of Goddard and Bragdon.