Walter Dyk Collection


Date: 1906-1956 | Size: 0.5 Linear feet


The linguist Walter Dyk (1899-1972) began his career as a graduate student under Edward Sapir studying the Wishram language. Following his MA thesis "Verb types in Wishram" (Chicago, 1931) and dissertation "A Grammar of Wishram" (Yale, 1933), Dyk turned to the study of Navajo language and culture, publishing his best known works, "autobiographies" of two of his consultants, Left Handed (1938) and Old Mexican (1948). The Dyk Collection consists of copies of Dyk's MA thesis and dissertation, some fields notes and related publications on Wishram, and commentary by Mary Haas, C. F. Voegelin, and Dell Hymes (who assembled the collection). Among the more interesting items are a particularly long and informative letter from Sapir commenting on Dyk's dissertation, and a series of letters between Pete McGuff and Sapir, written while the former was doing fieldwork on Wasco at Fort Simcoe, Washington, 1906-1908.

Background note

Born in Germany on September 30, 1899, the linguist Walter Dyk emigrated to Gloversville, N.Y., as a young child. After receiving his bachelor's degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1928, he pursued graduate work in linguistics under Edward Sapir, receiving his MA at Chicago for "Verb Types in Wishram" (1931) and his dissertation at Yale for "A Grammar of Wishram" (1933).

Following completion of his doctorate, Dyk turned from Chinookan languages to Navajo, doing intensive fieldwork in Arizona in 1934 on a grant from the National Research Council that he had secured with the support of Sapir. His analysis of clan and kinship informed his two most influential works, Son of Old Man Hat (New York, 1938), an "autobiographical" narrative written with his consultant Left Handed, and A Navaho Autobiography (New York, 1948), concerning Old Mexican. Dyk's Notes and Illustrations of Navaho Sex Behavior was similarly influential in its discussion of incest.

Dyk served as a fellow at the Harvard Psychological Clinic and taught at Simmons College and, after 1942, at Brooklyn College. However the progressive effects of Parkinson's disease began increasingly to take effect. Although able to return to Arizona for research in 1947-1948, he was ultimately forced to retire from teaching in 1962. He died in 1972, leaving a wife and two children.

Scope and content

The Walter Dyk Collection consists of 16 folders relating to Dyk's dissertation research on Wishram, 1930-1933, donated to the APS by Dell Hymes in the 1980s (with additions transferred from the Dell H. Hymes Papers in 2019). It includes copies of his masters thesis (Chicago, 1931) and dissertation (Yale, 1933), papers and notes sent to Dell Hymes in the mid-1950s when Hymes was working on the language, including two field notebooks, Hymes' plans for use of these and other materials, and a small but important set of correspondence. The correspondence includes letters to Dyk from Philip Kahclamet, who was Dyk's primary consultant for "Kikct" (which Kahclamet identifies as a broad term for several related varieties), and who later worked with Hymes; from Edward Sapir to Dyk, including a very long and detailed letter commenting on phonology in Dyk's dissertation; and a series of letters to Sapir from Peter McGuff, Sapir's Wishram consultant at Fort Simcoe, Washington, 1906-1908. Sapir described him in Sapir (1909), and Michael Silverstein discussed him in Natural Histories of Discourse (1996), a volume co-edited by Silverstein and Greg Urban.

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information

Physical description

0.5 linear feet

0.5 linear feet


Folders 1-13 gift of Dell H. Hymes, 1988. Folders 14-16 transferred from the Dell H. Hymes Papers (Mss.Ms.Coll.55) in 2019.

Preferred citation

Cite as: Walter Dyk Collection, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Catalogued rsc 2003. Additional materials moved from the Dell H. Hymes Papers (Mss.Ms.Coll.55) Subcollection 2 in 2019.

Related material

Additional material by Walter Dyk is located in the Collection of the American Council of Learned Socities Committee of Native American Languages (Mss.497.3.B63c): Wasco (Pn4a.10) and Wishram (Pn4a.5, Pn 4a6, Pn4a10), and there is Dyk correspondence with Gordonm Marsh (x4a.2).

The Franz Boas Papers (Mss.B.B61) contains a small correspondence with Dyk, and Dyk is mentioned in several letters between Boas and Sapir.


American Anthropologist 74 (1976).

Dyk, Walter, Son Of Old Man Hat.(Lincioln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1938).

Indexing Terms


  • Dissertations.
  • Field notes.
  • Masters theses

Personal Name(s)

  • Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972
  • Haas, Mary R. (Mary Rosamond), 1910-1996
  • Hymes, Dell H.
  • McGuff, Peter
  • Sapir, Edward, 1884-1939
  • Voegelin, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1906-1986
  • Wolf, J. G.


  • Indians of North America -- Languages
  • Wasco language

Detailed Inventory

 Walter Dyk Collection
 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
A Grammar of Wishram
1933TMsS, 157p., 7p. notesBox 1:
folder 1

Dissertation, Yale University, 1933.

General physical description: TMsS, 157p., 7p. notes

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Stress Accent in Wishram
1933TMsS, 4p. (2 copies), 7p.Box 1:
folder 2

Two versions of a paper, with TMs comments (1p.) by Dell Hymes, 1955. Published in IJAL 22 (1956): 238-241.

General physical description: TMsS, 4p. (2 copies), 7p.

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Theme Verbs
1933TMsS, 7p.Box 1:
folder 3

Marginal notes by Edward Sapir.

General physical description: TMsS, 7p.

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Verb Types in Wishram
1931TMsS, 55p., 4p. notesBox 1:
folder 4

MS thesis, University of Chicago, 1931, with accompanying notes by Dell Hymes, ca.1955.

General physical description: TMsS, 55p., 4p. notes

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Wishram Notes
n.d.AMsS, 46p.Box 1:
folder 5

General physical description: AMsS, 46p.

Access digital object:

 Haas, Mary R. (Mary Rosamond), 1910-1996.
Wishram notes
ca.1933-1934AMsS, 74p., TMs 6p.Box 1:
folder 6

Notes taken by Haas on Dyk's talk in Sapir's seminar, Yale, ca.1933-34. Includes Mary Haas ALS to Dell Hymes, n.d., 1p. Includes a copy of the Oedipal myth of Diabixwásxwas, "the only record in the Wishram-Wasco language of a major Chinookan myth, recorded in Kathlamet by Boas and in Clackamas by Jacobs, and in English froma Wishram speaker by Edward Curtis' team."

General physical description: AMsS, 74p., TMs 6p.

Access digital object:

 Hymes, Dell H..
Sketch of a plan to combine data of Dyk, French, and Hymes
ca.1955TMsS and AMs, 7p.Box 1:
folder 7

General physical description: TMsS and AMs, 7p.

Access digital object:

 Sapir, Edward, 1884-1939.
ALS to Walter Dyk
1933 Aug. 29ALS, 42p.Box 1:
folder 8

Detailed commentary on Dyk's dissertation, phonology.

General physical description: ALS, 42p.

Access digital object:

 McGuff, Peter.
Correspondence with Edward Sapir
1906-190869 p.Box 1:
folder 9

Correspondence regarding McGuff's fieldwork on Wasco at Fort Simcoe, Washington, 1906-1908.

General physical description: 69 p.

Access digital object:

 Voegelin, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1906-1986.
Abstract of Walter Dyk's Dissertation, A Grammar of Wishram
1951TMsS, 12p.Box 1:
folder 10

Prepared "as an aid to Dell Hymes, who was to work witrh Wasco (i.e. Wishram) at Warm Springs, Oregon that summer, under the supervision of David French."

General physical description: TMsS, 12p.

Access digital object:

 Wolf, J. G..
Wishram dictionary
ca.1955-1956TMsS, 38p.Box 1:
folder 11

"Compiled by Dr. J. G. Wolf from E. Sapir's matierlas, edited by E. Sapir."

General physical description: TMsS, 38p.

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Wishram field notebook #1
ca.1931-1933 1 notebook ; 54 page(s) Box 1:
folder 12

Interlinear texts in Wishram with English glosses. There is no accompanying speaker or location information.

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Wishram field notebook #2
ca.1931-1933 1 notebook ; 21 page(s) Box 1:
folder 13

Notebook pages (6p.) contain interlinear texts in Wishram with English glosses. Loose notes (15p.) include lexica and grammatical charts. There is no accompanying speaker or location information.

Access digital object:

 Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Wishram Text
n.d. Box 1:
folder 14

Monolingual Wishram text in Dyk's hand.

Access digital object:

 Wishram Text
n.d. 32 page(s) Box 1:
folder 15

Monolingual typeset Wishram text with space for interlinearization.

Access digital object:

 Kahclamet, Philip. Dyk, Walter, 1899-1972.
Correspondence from Philip Kahclamet to Walter Dyk
1930-1933 Box 1:
folder 16

Letters from Philip Kahclamet to Walter Dyk, in "Kikct" (Kiksht/Wishram) and English, some with separate translations. In addition to providing clarification to Dyk about aspects of the language, Kahclamet discusses the use of these letters, the publication of texts, his increasing skill in Kikct orthography, his friends' responses to academic publications on neighboring languages, payment of services provided through Edward Sapir, and his fishing activities. The letters are interpersed with lists of terms of address, notes on phonology (Dyk's hand), and lists of sentences to check for grammaticality. There is some profanity. Kahclamet writes from various locations in Washington, those noted being White Swan and Grand Dalles. In one letter, Kahclamet provides the following clarification regarding the term Kikct: "Kikct mean Wicxam [Wishram] language, the Wasco and Cascade and Clackamas, probably others closely related to it. This term is far more common than Wicxam and is used by Wicxam people only. Wicxam is always used by non Wicxamized idilxam, you are good example for this. Wicxam is a Shahaptian form for Wilxam. Do not confuse with Kictk".

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