Ken Hale Memorial Masters Program
Complete Program Proposal
The program would initially be open to two Master's (SM) students per
year. These students could be from any indigenous group, from any part
of the world. Ideally, a given community would send more than one student
at a time; this would help both to reduce culture shock and to distribute
the overwhelming burden of work involved in future language revival programs.
In addition, two (or more) Ph.D. students would work with the SM students
on their projects, contributing language research, tutoring, and providing
assistance as needed. These students would be funded as TAs. Through this
work, Ph.D. students would gain experience with fieldwork and endangered
language revitalization, areas in which many of our students have already
expressed an interest.
(1) A native speakers knowledge of an indigenous or endangered language
OR commitment to learning it as a second language (i.e. have shown a commitment
to the community in the area of language revitalization)
(2) Demonstrated ability and interest in scholarly and practical work
in or out of the community (or both) relating to the language. Preference
will be given not only to individuals who are able to demonstrate their
capabilities to us but also to individuals who have demonstrated their
ability in concrete ways recognized as valuable within their home communities.
In some cases admission will require a liberal interpretation of the provision
that candidates for graduate work at MIT must have a B.A. degree or its
equivalent. The ideal candidates will have, within their communities,
achieved a level of learning and competence corresponding to a college
degree in the Angloamerican framework, if not in fact beyond that level.
If we were to restrict our attention to persons holding the B.A., then
we would defeat the very purpose of the program -- namely, to engage the
most talented and capable potential indigenous language scholars. The
conferral of a degree upon successful trainees will greatly facilitate
both their eventual hiring and their employment in serious language-related
educational work within their home communities. The importance of this
latter consideration was very evident to Ken Hale and others in past efforts
to train native speaker linguists.
The Masters will be a two-year program, with the following requirements:
Introduction to Linguistics (24.900)
Tutorial in Linguistics and Related Fields (independent study) (24.921)
Taken for two semesters in the first year
Tailored to the particular needs and interests of the students. (For
example, if the student is working with a language that is no longer
spoken at all, the contents of this course may focus on working with
archive material and reconstruction. If the student is working instead
with an endangered language, the course may focus more on teaching methods
and ways to encourage current community use of the language.)
Language Acquisition and Pedagogy
Course targeted at future teachers/language learning experts
Includes units on first and second language acquisition
Includes units on teaching methods (i.e. creating a syllabus, evaluation
methods, structuring a course)
plus any two of:
Introduction to Phonology (24.961)
Introduction to Syntax (24.901)
Introduction to Semantics (24.970)
Students will produce a Masters thesis in their second year, generally
a sketch grammar of their language or an in-depth investigation of some
grammatical issue in their language. Where such a grammar already exists,
the thesis may be an in-depth investigation of some linguistic aspect
of the language. Supervision of the thesis will be done by the students
advisor, generally the faculty person in charge of the tutorial for that
With funds from outside sources, the Indigenous Language Initiative will
offer full fellowships to all students, including tuition, healthcare,
and a stipend for living expenses.
Outcome of the
The program can be viewed as an apprenticeship whose end product is a
person familiar enough with the concepts and methodology of linguistics
to work effectively with other professionals in the field as well as a
person capable of doing significant scholarly and practical work on his
or her own language.
In order to help graduates of the program be able to continue their language
work after graduation, the Masters program will include the goals
- Finding and establishing connections with funding sources while students
are still at MIT
- Training in fundraising techniques to ensure that graduates have the
skills to apply for new grants after leaving
Since it may be difficult for many potential students to be physically
located at MIT continuously over the course of two years, requirements
on physical locations for the program are flexible. The MIT Department
of Linguistics will work with students to determine optimal coursework
schedules based on the students’ individual needs.
For students in New England or within driving distance to MIT, for example,
it may be possible for the Department of Linguistics to schedule class
meetings so that students can spend two nights a week in Boston and the
rest of their time in their home community (e.g. travel to MIT Tuesday,
classes Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, travel home Thursday evening). After
the first year of participation in the program, since students will mainly
be conducting independent research for their theses, it may be possible
for them to come to MIT only one or two days a week to meet with their
advisors and research groups.
Another possibility is to offer some courses online, allowing students
to earn course credit without having to be physically at MIT for all of
their coursework. This will not be possible for all courses. Students
will have to spend at least some amount of time physically at MIT and
in classes, but online coursework would significantly reduce the amount
of time away from their communities, should that be a problem for them.
The application deadline is January 2nd for the following September.
Candidates should follow the regular application process for admission
into the linguistics department graduate program, which can be found
In addition, one letter of recommendation should be submitted that expresses
the support of the candidate's home community.
For more information, contact the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-253-4141.
The department has limited funds for the support of graduate students,
and is committed to distributing this support as equitably as possible
to students in good standing who are in need of financial assistance.
Consequently, applicants are strongly urged to make extensive efforts
to find some outside source of support. Applicants should contact foundations
and agencies such as the International Fulbright Commission , the National
Science Foundation , the Jacob K Javits Fellowship Program , the American
Association of University Women , and the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada (for Canadians), for information about fellowships
and grants. Links to scholarship-providing organizations specifically
targeted at Native American students can be found on our links