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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 5

Papers of Karl V. Teeter, 1769-2003 (inclusive), 1953-1998 (bulk).


Karl van Duyn Teeter (1929-2007) was an American linguist who specialized in endangered Algic and Algonquian languages. These papers primarily document Teeter's linguistic research on the Wiyot and Maliseet-Passamaquoddy languages and his professional activities as a Professor of Linguistics in the Harvard University Department of Linguistics.


  • 1769-2003 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1998 .


Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the Harvard University Archives is required for access to the Papers of Karl V. Teeter. Please see the reference staff for further details.


22 cubic feet (54 document boxes, 2 half document boxes, 18 cassette boxes, 1 1/2 microfilm box, and 1 16mm film canister)

The Papers of Karl V. Teeter document his work as an American linguist in the field of Native American languages, especially on the Native American languages Wiyot and Maliseet-Passamaquoddy. Containing Teeter's original research in the form of fieldnotes, audio recordings and file slips as well as secondary research (including photocopies of original sources by other linguists), the papers illustrate the enormous impact Teeter made on the field, such as his contribution, in the form of his Ph.D. dissertation and other writings, to the ending of the Ritwan controversy (the question of whether the Wiyot and Yurok languages are related to the Algonquian languages). They also illustrate his collaboration with other linguists, most notably with Philip LeSourd on Tales from Maliseet country : the Maliseet texts of Karl V. Teeter.

The papers also document Teeter's role as a Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University, containing extensive notes for lectures as well as field notebooks used in teaching courses on linguistic field methods.

The papers include correspondence, original linguistic research, research and subject files, records of Teeter's professional activities, a comprehensive set of his writings, materials from his undergraduate and graduate study, and a small amount of autobiographical material.

Biographical Notes

Karl van Duyn Teeter (1929-2007) was an American linguist who specialized in endangered Algic and Algonquian languages, most notably Wiyot and Maliseet-Passamaquoddy (also known as Malecite-Passamaquoddy).

Born to Charles Edwin Teeter, Jr. (Harvard College Class of 1927) and Lura May Shaffner on March 2, 1929, Teeter was raised in Lexington, Massachusetts. He married Anita Maria Bonacorsi Teeter (Radcliffe AB 1951, Harvard EdM 1967, Ed 1978) in 1951; together they had four daughters.

After dropping out of high school in Lexington and holding a variety of jobs, Teeter joined the United States Army, serving from 1951-1954. While stationed in Japan, Teeter became interested in studying the Japanese language and linguistics in general. Upon returning to the United States in 1955, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied linguistics under Mary Haas. After receiving his BA in Oriental Languages in 1956, Teeter continued linguistic studies as a graduate student, concentrating on the endangered Native American language of Wiyot, spoken in Northern California. From 1956 to 1959, he made several field trips to study the language, working in particular with Della Prince, the last living speaker of Wiyot. His dissertation, The Wiyot Language, was completed in 1962 and published in 1964.

From 1959 to 1962, Teeter was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Appointed Assistant Professor of Linguistics in 1962, he remained at Harvard for his entire teaching career, retiring as Professor of Linguistics in 1989. At Harvard, Teeter regularly taught courses on Japanese linguistics, field methods in linguistics, history and theory of linguistics, and a survey course on the native languages of North America.

From 1969-1970, Teeter studied at the University of Tokyo under a Fulbright research fellowship. After his return to Harvard, however, he chose to concentrate his studies on Native American linguistics, rather than Japanese studies. In 1963, Teeter began his study of the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy (alternately known as Malecite-Passamaquoddy) language spoken in Maine and in New Brunswick, Canada. Together with Wiyot, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy became the main focus of Teeter’s linguistic study. After his retirement in 1989, Teeter published a Wiyot Handbook in two volumes to follow up on his dissertation, and began working with Philip LeSourd on Maliseet texts Teeter gathered during his 1963 fieldwork. These texts were published in 2007 as Tales from Maliseet country : the Maliseet texts of Karl V. Teeter.

Teeter had a great interest in endangered languages, serving on the Board of Directors for the Endangered Language Fund from 1998 until his death on April 20, 2007.

Series and Subseries in theCollection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1963-2000
  2. ___A. Correspondence files, 1967-1990 (inclusive), 1970-1981 (bulk)
  3. ___B. Loose correspondence, 1963-2000
  4. ___C. Digital media, 1989-1995
  5. II. Linguistic research, 1830-2003 (inclusive), 1956-1998 (bulk)
  6. ___A. Wiyot, 1956-2003
  7. ______1. Fieldnotes, 1956-1959
  8. ______2. Audio recordings, 1989, 1994, and undated
  9. ______3. Digital media, 1986-1993 and undated
  10. ______4. Text transcriptions, ca. 1956-1979 and undated
  11. ______5. File slips, [ca. 1965], 2003
  12. ______6. Research files, 1889-1998
  13. ______7. Grant records, 1991-1997
  14. ___B. Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, 1830-2001 (inclusive), 1963-1998 (bulk)
  15. ______1. Fieldnotes, 1963-1980
  16. ______2. Audio recordings, 1965-1992 and undated
  17. ______3. Digital media, 1989-1998 and undated
  18. ______4, File slips, undated
  19. ______5. Research files, 1830-1998 (inclusive), 1963-1998 (bulk)
  20. ______6. Drafts of Tales from Maliseet Country: the Maliseet texts of Karl V. Teeter, 1993-2001 and undated
  21. ______7. Grant records, 1993-1998
  22. III. Readings and notes, 1769-2000 (inclusive), 1950-2000 (bulk)
  23. ___A. Research and subject files, 1769-1997 (inclusive), 1950-1979 (bulk)
  24. ___B. Loose research and subject materials, 1911-2000 (inclusive), 1972-2000 (bulk)
  25. IV. Writings, 1958-1998
  26. V. Professional activities and curriculum vitae, 1953-1997
  27. VI. Teaching materials, 1955-1988
  28. ___A. Teaching materials files, 1955-1986
  29. ___B. Loose teaching materials, 1962-1988
  30. VII. Undergraduate and graduate study materials, 1955-1957
  31. VIII. Year in Japan, 1969-1970
  32. IX. Unidentified digital media and audio recordings, 1997-1998 and undated

Acquisition Information

Accession number: 17755; 2008 April 1.

Online access

Some of the items in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany item descriptions.

Related Material

In other institutions
  1. Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

Inventory update

This inventory last updated 2023 April 24.

Processing Note

The collection was processed in 2010. Processing involved a collection survey, housing in appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created byJuliana Kuipers in May 2010.

Teeter, Karl V., 1929- Papers of Karl V. Teeter: an inventory
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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