Welcome to Glossographia, a blog dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of language from a social scientific perspective. I am Stephen Chrisomalis, a linguistic anthropologist and cognitive anthropologist working at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The opinions and thoughts on this blog are mine alone, and should not be taken as representative of those of my employer.
I write about the intersection of linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, cognitive science, and evolution, with particular foci on epigraphy, literacy studies, writing systems, numeration, and the history of science and mathematics, among other things. From time to time I also post about social issues in academia, particularly those relating to graduate education. While my focus will be academic, I’m aiming to present material that will be accessible and interesting to non-specialists and specialists alike.
Prospective students may wish to consult my faculty page for information on my publications and other research foci. I am actively seeking graduate students at both the MA and PhD levels.
My primary research focus is on the anthropology of mathematics, specifically numerical systems. My book, Numerical Notation: A Comparative History, is a cross-cultural cognitive history of all attested systems of written numerals from 3500 BCE to the present. It is the sort of work that takes me into cognitive neurolinguistics one day, and Near Eastern epigraphy the next, and I write about it here quite a bit. I do ethnographic work on mathematics education in Detroit, Michigan, and historical-sociolinguistic work on numeracy in American English.
I am also the creator and maintainer of the Phrontistery, a non-academic site dedicated to the love of English lexicography and specifically rare and obscure words. It’s been running continuously since 1996 (when I was still an undergraduate, and when it was a Geocities page), and thus, in Internet years, is practically an antique, but it’s home.
The name of this blog is taken from the title of a dictionary by Thomas Blount (1618-1679), an English antiquarian and philologist. The original Glossographia (1656) was one of the first ‘hard words’ dictionaries to reflect a historical perspective on the English language. Blount was a true polymath who also wrote on topics such as ancient folk customs and the history of legal terminology, and it is in that spirit that I begin this namesake project.
I hope this can be the sort of place where like-minded (and not-so-like-minded) people, regardless of status or profession, can talk about ideas informally and get to meet one another. Please feel free to comment with relevant news, questions, or links of interest. And once again, welcome!