Norman C. Stageberg Papers, 1942-1980

Collection Overview

Title: Norman C. Stageberg Papers, 1942-1980

Record Series: 14/03/02/04

Record Group:

14/03/02 Faculty & Staff Papers

Creator: Stageberg, Norman C.

Date: 1942-1980

Extent: 8 boxes (3.34 linear feet)

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

Language: Materials entirely in English.

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Historical Note

Norman Clifford Stageberg was born April 7, 1905, at Owatonna, Minnesota. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1926, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1932, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1946.

Before coming to UNI, Stageberg was a teacher at Valley Springs, Minnesota, from 1926-1929, and served as head of the English department at Faribault, Minnesota High School from 1929-1939. From 1942-1946 he served in the U.S. Army. He again served in the military from 1951-1953 with the Air Force as an instructor at Air University and the University of Alabama.

Norman Stageberg joined the UNI faculty in 1946 as Assistant Professor of English. He retired in 1972 with the rank of professor, which he achieved in 1960. He was a highly respected scholar with expertise in languages, linguistics, ambiguity, and meaning.

Stageberg was most noted at UNI for creating a pioneering program in TEFL, Teaching of English as a Foreign language, in the 1960s.

Stageberg married first, in 1937, Alma, who died in 1975; then second, in 1975, Elaine McDavitt, a UNI faculty member, who died in 1979; and third, June Suzuki Talbott, a member of the UNI library staff.

Stageberg died on March 18, 1984. Under the terms of his will, he donated his professional linguistics collection to the UNI library. That collection remains intact in the Rod Library Special Collections division.

June Stageberg provided funds in Professor Stageberg's memory to furnish the Special Collections reading room. That gift was commemorated with a ceremony in Special Collections on April 18, 1997.



Scope and Content

In the summer of 1997, June Stageberg donated this collection of papers to the University of Northern Iowa Archives. The collection consists primarily of three categories of material: (1) material related to Professor Stageberg's textbooks; (2) material related to his classroom teaching; and (3) material relating to his continuing research interests in ambiguity and meaning. There is overlap among these three categories.

The current arrangement of these papers closely follows the rough subject arrangement in which Professor Stageberg kept his material.


Box 1

Folder 1: Stageberg Collection and Gift, 1997

  • Correspondence
  • Speeches in Dr. Stageberg’s honor

Folder 2: Academic credentials

  • Diploma, B.S., University of Minnesota, 1926
  • Grade report, University of Minnesota, 1929
  • Teaching license, state of Minnesota, 1931
  • Diploma,M.A., University of Iowa, 1932
  • Transcripts, Harvard University, 1935
  • Transcripts, University of Wisconsin, 1938
  • Diploma, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1946
  • Teaching evaluation, Iowa State Teachers College, 1947
  • Godparent certificate, 1950
  • Curriculum vita, 1971

Folder 3: Stageberg, Norman, retired 01/31/1972

  • Correspondence
  • Faculty records

Folder 3: Speech texts and notes

  • Several sets of notes concerning linguistic topics
  • “The Scandal of Traditional Grammar”
  • “The Origins of Traditional School Grammar”
  • “The New English”
  • “Structural Choices and Composition”
  • “English Grammar and Its Uses”
  • “Linguistics and the Elementary Teacher”
  • “Improving the Communication Skills”
  • “The Changing Language: English in Perspective”
  • “Structural Grammar: Gleanings for Traditionalists”
  • “Transformational Grammar”
  • “Structural Ambiguity in Writing”

Folders 4-6: Correspondence about textbooks

Folder 7: Correspondence: textbook permissions

Box 2 - Notes for textbooks

Folders 1-3: “Structural Ambiguity For Teachers of Composition”

  • “Some Structural Ambiguities”
  • “Structural Ambiguity: Some Sources”
  • “Structural Ambiguity for English Teachers”
  • “Structural Ambiguity in the Noun Phrase”
  • “Ambiguity in College Writing (To a College Freshman)”
  • “Structural Ambiguity and the Suprasegmentals”
  • “Structural Ambiguities in English”
  • “Ambiguity in Action” A Bawdy Count”
  • Lingua Pranca (publication by Indiana University)

Folder 4: Structural Ambiguity in Writing (book manuscript)

Folder 5: Publications and other writings


  • Published versions of the essays in “Structural Ambiguity for Teachers of Composition,” listed above
  • “Do We Need a High School Associated Press?” Quilt and Scroll, October-November 1936
  • “The Art Song,” Humanities Review, v. 1, #5, May 1947 (2 copies)
  • “Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium,” The Explicator, v. VI, #2, November 1947
  • “Proposals for English,” Epsilon Bulletin, January 1948
  • “The Aesthetic of the Petrarchan Sonnet,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, v. III, #2, December 1948
  • “Arnold’s Dover Beach,” The Explicator, v. IX, #5, March 1951
  • “Pidgin French Grammar: A Sketch,” Modern Language Journal, v. XL, #4, April 1956 (2 copies)
  • “Obstacle Words in Group Conference,” The Journal of Communication, no volume or date information available

Other writings (in manuscript form)

  • “Capricci” (poem)
  • “An Interpretation of Whitman on Inspiration” (essay)
  • “How Dickey the dreamer Got the Golden Fleece” (folk tale)
  • “How Wily Weasel Almost Fooled Johnny Rabbit But Not Quite” (folk tale)

Box 3

Folder 1: Air Command and staff school lectures

Folder 2: Examinations

Folder 3: Communication I and II course packets

Folder 4: Grammar class notes

Folders 5-13: English II class assignments

Folder 14: Class assignments and assignment sheets

Box 4

Folder 1: Abstraction Language – Abstractions

Folder 2: Advanced Phonology

Folder 3: Ambiguity – Examples

Folder 4: Analogy

Folder 5: Applied Linguistics

Folder 6: "But It Isn't So" (essay by James W. Yard)

Folder 7: Cause

Folder 8: Classification

Folder 9: Context (for class presentation)

Folder 10: Contrastive Analysis

Box 5

Folder 1: Definition

Folder 2: Desk dictionaries

Folders 3-4: Dialect maps and notes

Folder 5: Dutch-English

Folder 6: Either-or

Folder 7: Emotive words

Folder 8: Generalization

Folder 9: Generative grammar

Folder 10: Gleason – problems

Folder 11: Grammar – clippings

Folder 12: Idiocies (Iowa)

Folder 13: Juncture – stress, pitch – clippings

Box 6

Folder 1: Language – clippings

Folder 2: Logic – Dilemma, statistics

Folder 3: Malayam

Folder 4: Meaning

Folder 5: Meaning – multiple, shifted

Folder 6: Metaphor

Folder 7: Morphology

Folder 8: Novel and short story

Folder 9: Observation – inference

Folder 10: Old English

Folder 11: Phonetics

Folder 12: Pidgin languages

Box 7

Folder 1: Problems in English grammar

Folder 2: Propaganda

Folder 3: Reification

Folder 4: Semantics – clippings

Folder 5: Sexism in language

Folder 6: Slang

Folder 7: Sonograms

Folder 8: Sound symbolism

Folder 9: Structural ambiguity – essays on E.E. Cummings

Folder 10: TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language)

Folder 11: Television lecture – Shakespeare’s sonnets

Folder 12: Usage

Folder 13: Vocabulary – clippings

Folder 14:Whorfian Hypothesis

Box 8 - Note cards about ambiguity

Folder 1: Ambiguities

Folder 2: Ambiguity 

Folder 3: Humorous

Folder 4: Lexical

Folder 5: Numbered

Folder 6: Suprasegmentals

Processing Information

Collection organized by Gerald Peterson, University Archivist, September 1997; finding aid created by Gerald Peterson and Library Assistant Susan Basye, December 1997. Updated by Library Associate Dave Hoing, January 2018 and April 2018. Linear feet updated September 13, 2017.