Kenneth L. Hale Award


First presented in 2002, this award recognizes scholars who have done outstanding work on the documentation of a particular language or family of languages that is endangered or no longer spoken. Nominations must be accompanied by relevant supporting materials, such as copies of representative work. Nominators must be current LSA members. Awarded annually as nominations warrant. 


All authors must be current members of the LSA and relevant works should normally be no more than 15-20 years old.
The letter of nomination should include detailed description of the nominee’s contributions, as appropriate:
  • Description of documentation products (books, dictionaries, grammars, articles, etc.)
  • Evaluation of quality of the scholar's work
  • Discussion of status of language being documented, evidence of endangerment/extinction; evaluation of relative need for documentation
  • Discussion of commitment to the language and its speakers
  • Importance of work to public, the language community, and scholars

*Nomination links will only be active during the nomination window. In 2024, nominations are open April 8th - end of day on July 12th. Nominations will not be accepted after this date.


The Awards Committee reviews nominations and makes recommendations to the Executive Committee, which must formally approve the recommendations.

Previous Awardees


Andrew Garrett. The LSA Awards Committee is pleased to announce Andrew Garrett as Ken Hale Award Recipient in 2023. Through his linguistic and community work documenting languages of Northern California, principally Yurok and Karuk, Andrew Garrett admirably encapsulates the different commitments and achievements of the great Ken Hale. A leading scholar originally trained in historical linguistics and Indo-European, whose honors include the 2015 Best Paper in Language Award (with three co-authors), Garrett has produced work on a wide range of linguistic, historical, and cultural issues as well as producing new studies and web-based lexical and grammatical tools useful to language specialists and linguists in general and to the Yurok and Karuk communities. Most recently, he is the author of "The unnaming of Kroeber Hall: Language, memory, and Indigenous California" (MIT Press, to appear in 2023).


Felicity Meakins. Under the direction of First Nations communities, Felicity Meakins has worked for 20 years in northern Australia, leading teams of community members, students, postdocs, artists, musicologists and biologists to document Ngumpin-Yapa languages. Together with these collaborators, she has compiled 17 volumes of dictionaries, grammars, ethnobiologies, text collections and academic monographs. This work culminated in a field methods textbook in 2018. She has also written over 60 papers on language endangerment and change in Australia, in particular the development of new Australian languages, such as Gurindji Kriol. Meakins’ projects have dedicated over $US3.3M to the documentation of First Nation languages in Australia, with the aim of honouring these languages, recognising new ways of speaking by younger generations and providing First Nations communities with guiding principles for language revitalisation.


Sharon Hargus. For decades of tireless work with three endangered Athabaskan languages of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and the Yakima Sahaptin language of Washington state. Professor Hargus has worked together with the communities of Moricetown (Witsuwit'en), Fort Ware (Kwadacha/Tsek’ene) and the Lower Yukon River (Deg Xinag), and with co-author and consultant Dr. Virginia Beavert (Yakima Sahaptin), in documenting, recording, analyzing, teaching, and revitalizing these four languages. She has produced grammars, dictionaries, sound files, teaching materials, and scholarly articles numbering thousands of pages and thousands of recordings. She has also left a legacy of Athabaskanists and other linguists she has trained, who are themselves now devoted to the preservation of endangered languages


Patience Epps. This award is given in recognition of Professor Patience Epp's contributions to Hup, Dâw, and the other fragile and little-studied Nadahup languages of Brazil's Upper Rio Negro basin. Her work in Nadahup communities, ongoing since 2001, has yielded educational and literary materials in community languages, a major grammar, extensive digital archives, and numerous articles. She exemplifies the spirit of Ken Hale's work by using language documentation to address broad social, cultural, historical, typological, and theoretical issues that transcend the boundaries of her own fieldwork and by ensuring that her research is always guided by an ongoing commitment to, and collaboration with, her host.


Judith Aissen. In her work on Mayan languages, which spans more than forty years, Judith Aissen has made outstanding contributions in language documentation, linguistic theory, and the mentoring of Indigenous linguists.  Aissen’s published works are models of theoretically informed linguistic description; viewed another way, they are models of empirically-based theoretical work. Aissen has been a stalwart, dedicated mentor of Indigenous linguists in Mexico and Guatemala, teaching seminars and workshops. In short, Aissen has earned this award for her energetic documentation of Tzotzil and other Mayan languages, her success at bringing these languages to bear on linguistic theory, and her commitment to the nurturing of Indigenous linguists.


Tucker Childs. In recognition of his contributions to the documentation of the languages of the Bolom group and to their speaker communities. Tucker Childs has devoted decades to research on Kisi, Bom, Mani, Kim, and Sherbro to produce a comprehensive picture of the languages and cultures of an endangered African language group. He has shown a commitment to both scholarship and speaker communities, producing grammars, dictionaries, readers, and primers, as well as numerous academic articles. His work provides a model for the documentation of African languages by an American scholar and the value in documenting an entire linguistic subgroup.


Melissa Axelrod. 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.


Nora C. England. 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.


Anvita Abbi. 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‚Äźornithology.

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.


Claire Bowern and her work are 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.


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.


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.


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


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.