Image of the ILC Building

UMass Linguistics Celebrates 50 Years

The UMass Department of Linguistics marked its 50th anniversary with a weekend-long celebration in July.  

Don Freeman
UMass Linguistics Department founder Don Freeman in 1972

The department’s creation was approved by the UMass Board of Trustees in December 1971, under the leadership and vision of Donald Freeman, who became department chair, according to an early history of the department written by linguistics professor emerita and former department chair Barbara Partee. The department offered graduate degrees only until the fall of 1998, when a bachelor of arts in linguistics began, having been approved by the Board of Trustees in late 1997.  

One of the new department’s first major events was hosting the 1974 Linguistics Institute of the Linguistic Society of America; the 50th anniversary coincided with UMass’s hosting of the 2023 Institute, which brought more than 100 faculty and 300 students to the university for a wide-ranging set of courses, talks, and other activities in June and July.  

Events for the weekend included a discussion moderated by department chair Joe Pater on the building of UMass Linguistics, with panelists including Freeman, professor emerita Lyn Frazier, Kyle Johnson, Barbara Partee and Tom Roeper, and additional discussions on inter-generational collaboration on presupposition accommodation, computation and linguistic theory, and linguistics and the law.