Hale obtained his PhD in 1959 at Indiana University with a thesis A Papago Grammar. He then spent two years doing fieldwork in Australia, during which time he collected the basic linguistic data (morphology and core vocabulary) of around 70 languages and made a more intensive study of many of these. Hale’s field notes and records of those years have served as the raw material for linguistic research at all levels, from numerous Master’s and PhD theses written by students at universities in Australia and the US to the most advanced research currently underway.
Upon his return from Australia Hale taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana and at his alma mater, the University of Arizona. It was at this time (in the 1960s) that Hale became an active contributor to the work in transformational and generative linguistics that had been initiated by Noam Chomsky (NAS 1972) at MIT. This, in turn, led to his appointment in 1966 to the linguistics faculty at MIT, where he remained to the end of his life.
Hale was sensitive to the unequal relationship that often obtains between researchers, who usually have enormous material resources at their command, and the individuals whose languages are being studied, who often are barely surviving on the margins of our modern world. He was deeply concerned about “the sheer lethal incompatibility between the dominant Anglo-Saxon people’s empire and an Aboriginal society of almost inconceivable antiquity,”1 and he made major efforts to provide tangible benefits to the groups whose languages he was studying. In Australia, in Nicaragua, and particularly in the American Southwest, he was instrumental in starting programs in elementary education in several local languages. He tried in a great many instances to provide training to individuals from the groups whose languages he was studying, including admission to graduate programs in linguistics with financial support.