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Robert W. Young, 94; linguist helped create Navajo dictionaries

March 19, 2007|From Times Wire Services

Robert W. Young, 94, a linguist whose collaboration with a Navajo tribesman resulted in dictionaries of the native language, died Feb. 20 in Albuquerque. The cause of death was not reported.

Young is known for his Navajo dictionary and lexicon work, including "The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary," published in 1980; "Analytical Lexicon of Navajo," published in 1990; and "The Navajo Verb System: An Overview," published in 2000, all by the University of New Mexico Press.

Young's dictionary work came from a long collaboration with William Morgan, a Navajo linguist with whom he began working in the 1930s.

A native of Chicago, Young learned Spanish and Nahuatl, an indigenous tongue, at an early age by speaking with Mexican immigrant railroad workers. He earned a liberal arts degree from the University of Illinois in 1935 and then studied anthropology at the University of New Mexico.

He started working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a specialist in American Indian languages in the early 1940s, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Young served in the Marine Corps during World War II and played a role in the Navajo code talker program.

He became an adjunct linguistics professor at the University of New Mexico when he retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1971. He taught Navajo language classes and was co-director of the Navajo Reading Study.

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