He received his B.A. in German from Michigan State University in 1967 and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Harvard University in 1977. From 1968 to 1972 he served in the United States Air Force, where he learned Chinese and worked as a Chinese radio listener. In 1978 he accepted a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he became Paul Debreczeny Distinguished Professor of Linguistics. In 2005 he was the Collitz Professor at the Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute. As of July 1, 2007 he is A. Richard Diebold Professor of Indo-European Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
- Studies in Hittite Historical Phonology. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984, ISBN 3-525-26220-5
- Lycian Lexicon. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Copytron, 1989, iv + 122pp.; 2nd edn. Chapel Hill University Press, 1993, vi + 130pp.
- Cuneiform Luvian Lexicon. Chapel Hill, N.C.: self-published, 1993, ISBN 1-5114-0969-X
- Anatolian Historical Phonology, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994, ISBN 90-51-83697-X
- A Grammar of the Hittite Language, Eisenbrauns, 2008, ISBN 1-57506-119-8
- A Dictionary of the Lycian Language, Ann Arbor–NY: Beech Stave Press, 2004, ISBN 0-9747927-0-5
- "2005 LSA Institute - People - H. Craig Melchert". web.mit.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
- "Past Linguistic Institutes: Named Professorships | Linguistic Society of America". www.linguisticsociety.org. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
- "The Luwians | Brill". www.brill.com. Retrieved 2018-01-25.