Notable Figures

Bernard Spolsky

Bernard Spolsky came to UNM in 1968 as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Elementary Education. During his time at UNM, he conducted the Navajo Reading Study, with the aim of developing materials for Navajo literacy programs He also hired UNM’s first Navajo language teacher, Irene Silentman. Spolsky played an integral role in founding both the Navajo Department at UNM and the Department of Linguistics that would later incorporate the Navajo Department.

Roseann Willink

Roseann Willink came to UNM in 1980, as a visiting instructor of Navajo, and helped lead the Navajo Language Program for many years, guiding it from being within the Department of Modern Languages to the Department of Linguistics, where it is today. Roseann retired with honors in Spring 2009, after 30 years with the NLP.

Robert W. Young

Robert W. Young, first coming to study Navajo as a graduate student at UNM, met William Morgan, Sr., at the Southwest Range and Sheep Breeding Laboratory, near Ft. Wingate, and together began to work, at the behest of J. P. Harrington, on an orthography and dictionary for the Navajo Language. The two worked together many years with the BIA, and later at UNM. They published a newspaper in the Navajo language, Ádahooníłígíí, and authored the definitive dictionaries of Navajo, The Navajo Language (1980, 1987) and Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). Robert Young also wrote The Navajo Verb System (2000), and was both honored by the Navajo Nation Council in 1995, and by UNM in 2005, with an honorary Ph.D, for his work in studying and supporting the Navajo language.

William Morgan, Sr.

William Morgan Sr. worked for many years documenting the Navajo language and developing materials in collaboration with Dr. Robert W. Young. Their work culminated in The Navajo Language (1980, 1987) and Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). Morgan was hired by Bernard Spolsky in the 1970s to be a visiting professor at UNM, and was eventually honored by the Navajo Nation Council in 1995 for his lifelong work with the Navajo language.

Photo Credit: Dinwoodie, David W. & Morgan, William. 2003. William Morgan (1917-2001): Navajo Linguist. Anthropological Linguistics. [Anthropological Linguistics, Trustees of Indiana University] 45(4). 426–449.

Sally Midgette Anderson

While pursuing her PhD in Anthropology at UNM, Sally Midgett Anderson worked with Young and Morgan, and co-authored Analytical Lexicon of Navajo (1992). Her dissertation, The Navajo Progressive in Discourse: A Study in Temporal Semantics, was published as a book in 1995.

Alyse Neundorf

Alyse Neundorf both taught Navajo at UNM and wrote two books published by UNM Press, titled A Navajo/English Bilingual Dictionary: Áłchíní Bi Naaltsoos (2005) and Navajo/English Dictionary of Verbs (2006).

Photo Credit: Navajo Language Academy 

Irene Silentman

Irene Silentman was the first Navajo language teacher at UNM, hired by Bernard Spolsky as part of the Navajo Reading Study.