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Historical linguistics is a discipline with strong interdisciplinary connections to sociocultural anthropology, ethnohistory, and archaeology.
While the study of language change and etymology can be traced back to ancient societies in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia,
a number of important methodological approaches emerged in the late 18th century, when European scholars who were engaged in
colonial administration set the foundations for research in Indo-European languages. Contemporary historical linguistics has maintained a
focus on several large-scale questions, such as the origins of the language faculty; the classification and typology of the world’s languages;
the time depth of major language changes; ancient writing systems; the impact of linguistic and cultural contacts on language change; the
emergence of pidgins and creoles; the influence of colonial expansion and evangelization projects on language change; and the interface
among literacy practices, language change, and the social order. This article outlines all of these important inquiries, with a particular stress
on the sustained interaction among historical linguistics, anthropology, and ethnohistory. This survey has two focii: the first one is languages
of the Americas, and the second one is ethnohistorical and philological methodology. This choice in focus conveys existing historical
strengths and showcases our current knowledge about language contact and language change in the Americas.
The works in this section provide either historically salient or updated introductions to the field for beginning and advanced students.
Bloomfield 1933 includes a classic discussion of Americanist approaches to language change in the early 20th century. Campbell 2004 is
the most accomplished introduction to the field in print, Crowley and Bowern 2010 is a recent introduction to the field with an emphasis on
Austronesian data, Luraghi and Bubenik 2010 presents a wide range of specialized articles on disciplinary subfields, and Joseph and Janda
2003 is an eminently useful reference work. Bynon 1977 and Janson 2002 are highly accessible general surveys, and Hogg, et al. 1992
summarizes several decades of research on the history of English in Great Britain and beyond.
Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
An often-cited, influential summary of language typology and historical linguistics written by a leading early figure in Americanist linguistics.
Bynon, Theodora. 1977. Historical linguistics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
A useful introduction to the basic concepts and methodology of historical linguistics, with an emphasis on research in ancient and modern
Campbell, Lyle. 2004. Historical linguistics: An introduction. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
A critically acclaimed and much admired work that retains its status as the most comprehensive, ambitious, and synthetic one-volume
introduction to historical linguistics for beginning and advanced students.
Crowley, Terry, and Claire Bowern. 2010. An introduction to historical linguistics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
A popular, streamlined introduction to general topics and methods in historical linguistics, with a focus on data from Austronesian
Hogg, Richard M., Norman F. Blake, Roger Lass, Suzanne Romaine, Robert W. Burchfield, and John Algeo. 1992. The Cambridge
history of the English language. 3 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
These three volumes, part of a series published by Cambridge University Press, provide a useful and approachable introduction to the
historical linguistics and philology of the English language from its origins to the American Revolution. Volume 1, The Beginnings to 1066,
edited by Richard M. Hogg (1992); Volume 2, 1066–1476, edited by Norman Blake (2000); Volume 3, 1476–1776, edited by Roger Lass
Janson, Tore. 2002. Speak: A short history of languages. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
A highly readable introduction to the origins of language and language families.
Joseph, Brian D., and Richard D. Janda, eds. 2003. The handbook of historical linguistics. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell.
A useful reference work that introduces and contextualizes contemporary issues in historical linguistics, with a focus on methodological
issues and proposals about major principles that explain phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic change.
Luraghi, Silvia, and Vit Bubenik, eds. 2010. The Continuum companion to historical linguistics. London: Continuum International.
A recent compilation of specialized survey articles for advanced students authored by a broad range of scholars in the field.
The eight peer-reviewed/refereed journals listed in this section have a proven commitment to publishing important research in historical
linguistics, although such research may also appear in other journals devoted to archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and sociocultural
anthropology. International Journal of American Linguistics, established by anthropologist Franz Boas in 1917, has published many classic
articles in the field and maintains a strong emphasis on the historical linguistics of Amerindian languages. While following distinct editorial
policies, Diachronica, Journal of Historical Linguistics, and Journal of Historical Syntax have a relatively exclusive focus on diachronic
research. Language Variation and Change merges sociolinguistic and diachronic approaches to the study of language change. Journal of
Mesoamerican Languages and Linguistics and Revista de Filología Románica focus on two cultural and linguistic subdivisions—
Mesoamerica and Italic languages—that have been the focus of much recent scholarship. A relative newcomer, Language Dynamics and
Change, has a preference for interdisciplinary work that merges archaeology, linguistics, and linguistic prehistory.
This journal, published by John Benjamins, has a very good track record regarding influential publications focusing on language change,
comparative historical linguistics, and theoretical discussions on historical linguistics.
International Journal of American Linguistics. 1917–.
This periodical is the most prominent forum for research in Amerindian linguistics, both from diachronic and synchronic perspectives.
Journal of Historical Linguistics. 2011–.
This well-regarded journal publishes recent work on diachronic-oriented linguistic research, with an emphasis on works that establish links
among historical linguistics and corpus-based research, typology, language contact, and language and cognition.
Journal of Historical Syntax. 2012–.
This new journal seeks to publish work that merges a variety of linguistic theoretical approaches with diachronic linguistics.
Journal of Mesoamerican Languages and Linguistics. 2008–.
This journal places a strong emphasis on the historical linguistics of Mesoamerican languages, the study of indigenous writing systems, and
the historical relationships between Mesoamerican and non-Mesoamerican languages.
Language Dynamics and Change. 2011–.
A periodical produced by Brill that publishes research on language change, with a focus on innovative quantitative and theoretical
approaches to historical linguistics.
Language Variation and Change. 1989–.
A journal focusing on linguistic variation examined from synchronic and/or diachronic perspectives, encompassing both historical change
and recent or ongoing language variation.
Revista de Filología Románica. 1983–.
A periodical with a sustained focus on the historical analysis of Romance languages and literatures that publishes research in any Romance
language as well as in English and German.
Ancient Amerindian Writing Systems
While research on ancient Amerindian writing systems began in earnest in the late 19th century, current state-of-the-art understandings on
scripts such as the Maya emerged through collaborative work in the 1970s and 1980s, epitomized in Stuart 1987, which established the
foundations for contemporary phonetic readings. The present understanding of Mayan epigraphy is summarized in Wichmann 2004 and is
compared to research in other early scripts in Houston 2004. While Justeson and Kaufman 1993 presents the decoding of an important but
poorly attested script, Urcid Serrano 2001 provides an overview of the Zapotec script, an early Amerindian writing system whose antiquity
matches or surpasses that of the Maya. Late Post-Classic (1200–1519) Central Mexican graphic systems are discussed in Boone and
Urton 2011 and Jansen 2011, while Walker 1997 covers indigenous North American graphic systems.
Boone, Elizabeth H., and Gary Urton, eds. 2011. Their way of writing: Scripts, signs, and pictographies in pre-Columbian America.
Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.
An edited volume that brings together state-of-the-art perspectives on pictographic, ideographic, and graphic systems of representation in
Mesoamerica and the Andes, with a focus on late preconquest and early colonial times. See also Houston 2004, Salomon and Niño-Murcia
2011 (cited under Writing, Literacy, and Language Change), and Urcid Serrano 2001.
Houston, Stephen D., ed. 2004. The first writing: Script invention as history and process. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
An ambitious edited work edited by a leading expert on ancient Maya writing that affords a comparative overview between Mesoamerican
and other ancient writing systems, including the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Elamite, Shang, and Runic scripts.
Jansen, Maarten E. R. G. N. 2011. The Mixtec pictorial manuscripts: Time, agency, and memory in ancient Mexico. Leiden, The
A comprehensive analysis of the eight surviving illustrated Mixtec manuscripts of pre-Columbian origin, which includes the history of their
decipherment, methodological critiques, and an outline of the six centuries of indigenous history encoded in them.
Justeson, John, and Terrence Kaufman. 1993. A decipherment of Epi-Olmec hieroglyphic writing. Science 259:1703–1711.
To date, this is the most comprehensive and much debated attempt to decipher a long text and a short text in Epi-Olmec writing, an
otherwise poorly known Mesoamerican writing system.
Stuart, David. 1987. Ten phonetic syllables. Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 14. Washington, DC: Center for Maya
A classic paper that was instrumental in building the foundations of a widely accepted set of phonetic readings of Maya glyphs among
Urcid Serrano, Javier. 2001. Zapotec hieroglyphic writing. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology 34. Washington, DC:
The most exhaustive exploration of the ancient Zapotec writing system by a pioneer in the decipherment of this script, which remains
relatively impervious to phonetic readings.
Walker, Willard B. 1997. Native writing systems. In Languages. Volume 17 of Handbook of North American Indians. Edited by Ives
Goddard, 158–184. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
A useful summary of indigenous pictographic and ideographic writing systems in North America.
Wichmann, Søren, ed. 2004. The linguistics of Maya writing. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.
This edited volume provides a relatively recent reassessment of more information about the phonology and grammar of Maya inscriptions
that has come to light since the late 1990s.
Classification and Typology
A basic research question in historical linguistics involves the relationships among the world’s languages, either involving descent from
common origins or related to contact, borrowing, and semantic and cultural influences. Typological observations allow for categorization
based on shared or exclusive phonological, morphological, or syntactic traits. Certain pioneering attempts at classification—such as
Greenberg 1970 for African languages—have been complemented by more fine-grained work, such as Heine and Nurse 2000. On the other
hand, Campbell 1997 and Zvelebil 1990 stand as the most authoritative synoptic works regarding, respectively, languages of the Americas
and the Dravidian language family, while Campbell and Poser 2008 addresses the classification methodology for all major language
genealogies. The issue of shared attributes and divergences among unrelated languages spoken in the same cultural area is explored in an
exemplary manner in Campbell, et al. 1986; Dahl and Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2001; and Subbarao 2012. Matisoff 2003 focuses on the
historical reconstruction of syllabic structure in Tibeto-Burman, a language family in which each syllable usually represents an independent
Campbell, Lyle. 1997. American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Written by one of the most distinguished scholars of Amerindian linguistics, this work presents an authoritative discussion of the
classification, genetic relationships, and linguistic transformation of the indigenous languages of the Americas.
Campbell, Lyle, Terrence Kaufman, and Thomas Smith-Stark. 1986. Meso-America as a linguistic area. Language 62.3: 530–558.
Influential essay that established a series of correspondences found across unrelated language groups spoken in the Mesoamerican
cultural area, with a focus on metaphors involving body parts, numerical systems, specialized vocabularies, and specific semantic
Campbell, Lyle, and William J. Poser. 2008. Language classification: History and method. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
An authoritative overview of language classification encompassing various historical periods and all the major language families, with an
emphasis on methods employed to establish genealogical classifications.
Dahl, Östen Dahl, and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm, eds. 2001. The Circum-Baltic languages: Typology and contact. Vol. 1, Past and
present typology and contact. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Edited work that focuses on the similarities and differences among the various languages spoken in the circum-Baltic region—including
Baltic, Germanic, and Slavic branches of Indo-European as well as Finnic languages—with a focus on typology, language variation, and
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1970. The languages of Africa. 3d ed. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.
This classic essay, originally published in 1963 in the International Journal of American Linguistics, presents an early influential
classification and analysis of genetic relationships among the languages spoken in Africa.
Heine, Bernd, and Derek Nurse, eds. 2000. African languages: An introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Substantial survey that provides an introduction to African languages, which includes the area’s four major language groups (Niger-Congo,
Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatic, and Khoisan), and emphasizes typology and classification, particularly in the chapters by Paul Newman and
Matisoff, James A. 2003. Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and philosophy of Sino-Tibetan reconstruction. Berkeley:
Univ. of California Press.
Summarizes a large body of research carried out in the last three decades on the reconstruction of the syllabic structure and etymological
roots within the Tibeto-Burman language family, a diverse grouping encompassing more than 250 languages currently spoken in southern
China, the Himalayas, northeastern India, and southeastern Asia.
Subbarao, Karumuri V. 2012. South Asian languages: A syntactic typology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Recent synopsis that focuses on the syntactic typology of, and the syntactic convergence among, more than forty languages spoken in
South Asia belonging to four different language families (Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-European, and Tibeto-Burman/Sino-Tibetan), with a
particular stress on the thesis that India is a macrolinguistic area.
Zvelebil, Kamil V. 1990. Dravidian linguistics: An introduction. Pondicherry, India: Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics.
An influential and often-cited overview of the typology, classification, and description of the Dravidian language family.
Debates on Language Origins, Typology, and Macrophyla
Discussions of worldwide linguistic classifications have commonly been tied to two rather controversial topics: theoretical and evolutionary
models for the emergence of the language faculty in early humans and classificatory schemes that group all known languages into a few
macrophyla (or macrofamilies) about which no consensus exists. The former issue is discussed in Deacon 1997 and Knight, et al. 2000.
Debates on macrophyla have been deeply impacted by Joseph Greenberg’s “multilateral comparison” reconstruction methods (see
Greenberg 1970, cited under Classification and Typology), which many historical linguists regard as going beyond what the comparative
method may yield with confidence. Hence, Greenberg 1987 groups all Amerindian languages into two accepted groupings and a very
controversial macro group, a proposal that is supported by, and expanded on, in Ruhlen 1994 and Cavalli-Sforza 2000. Another provocative
proposal regarding “Nostratic,” a macro group with great time depth that would encompass a majority of the world’s languages, is explored
in Renfrew and Nettle 1999. Théophile Obenga’s controversial proposal regarding the descent of most African languages from a single
protolanguage is criticized in Fauvelle-Aymar, et al. 2000.
Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi. 2000. Genes, peoples, and languages. New York: North Point Press.
Outlines an extremely controversial thesis regarding correspondences between the classification of human populations into six major
descent groups, arguably traceable through genetic data, and six linguistic macrofamilies (based on Greenberg 1987 and other such works)
that would encompass all of the world’s languages.
Deacon, Terrence W. 1997. The symbolic species: The co-evolution of language and the brain. New York: Norton.
A provocative work based on research in comparative neuroscience that purportedly traces the coevolution of the language faculty and
brains over two million years of hominid evolution.
Fauvelle-Aymar, François-Xavier, Jean-Pierre Chrétien, and Claude-Hélène Perrot, eds. 2000. Afrocentrismes: L’histoire des
Africains entre Égypte et Amérique. Paris: Karthala.
Presents a critique of the historical reconstruction work of Théophile Obenga, a linguist whose account of genetic relationships among
African languages is not accepted by most historical linguists. Obenga’s response appeared in 2001 as Le sens de la lutte contre
l’africanisme eurocentriste (Paris: L’Harmattan).
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1987. Language in the Americas. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.
Introduces a highly controversial genealogical classification of all indigenous languages of the Americas into a large macrofamily
—“Amerind”—and two previously proposed but not universally accepted groupings—Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dené.
Knight, Chris, Michael Studdert-Kennedy, and James R. Hurford, eds. 2000. The evolutionary emergence of language: Social
function and the origins of linguistic form. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
A useful summary of provocative theories regarding the evolutionary emergence of the language faculty among human ancestors and early
Renfrew, Colin, and Daniel Nettle, eds. 1999. Nostratic: Examining a linguistic macrofamily. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute
for Archaeological Research.
Edited volume that assesses the provocative theory, first championed by Aharon Dolgopolsky, on the existence of a linguistic macrofamily
that included the Indo-European, Afroasiatic, Kartvelian, Uralic, Altaic, and Dravidian language families.
Ruhlen, Merritt. 1994. On the origin of languages: Studies in linguistic taxonomy. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.
A provocative proposal that employs Joseph Greenberg’s reconstruction methodology and conclusions to propose hypotheses regarding
the origins of the world’s languages based on vast macrophyla.
Sicoli, Mark A., and Gary Holton. 2014. Linguistic phylogenies support back-migration from Beringia to Asia. PLoS ONE 9.3:
This study employs computational phylogenetic methods to argue that a connection between Dene languages in North America and
Yeniseian languages in Siberia probably represents a radiation out of Beringia with back-migration into central Asia, rather than a direct
migration from central or western Asia to North America, as proposed by Merritt Ruhlen.
Language and Colonial Rule
European colonial expansion into the Americas, Asia, and Africa from the early 16th century onward resulted in the emergence of many
linguistic descriptive, philological, and lexicographic projects intimately tied to a hegemonic refashioning of the social and religious order.
These phenomena have been discussed in an often interdisciplinary manner by anthropologists and historians trained in linguistic analysis.
While Mannheim 2011 provides a thoroughly documented case study of Quechua language change in colonial Peru, Errington 2008 is a
broad survey of the multiple linkages among political hegemony and linguistic research over four centuries of colonization. Trautmann 2006
is a lively discussion of the emergence of modern European philology in India. As for colonial Africa, Fabian 1986, Irvine 1993, and Pugach
2012 emphasize various aspects of language management and linguistic description, while Mühlhäusler 1996 surveys the colonial linguistic
ecology of Pacific polities. Bauman and Briggs 2003 tackles the emergence of modern discourses about linguistic classification that relied
on deep-seated language ideologies about sociocultural hierarchies.
Bauman, Richard, and Charles L. Briggs. 2003. Voices of modernity: Language ideologies and the politics of inequality.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Sophisticated critique of the “foundational fictions” that established language ideologies that have influenced, as part of modernist
discourses, the representation of putatively premodern subjects—workers, country folk, non-Europeans, and women.
Errington, Joseph. 2008. Linguistics in a colonial world: A story of language, meaning, and power. Oxford: Blackwell.
Inspired and concise précis of the momentous convergence of colonial administration; colonial evangelization; linguistic description; and
philology in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Fabian, Johannes. 1986. Language and colonial power: The appropriation of Swahili in the former Belgian Congo, 1880–1938. New
York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
A classic anthropological case study of the development of linguistic description and of the interface between colonial language reform
programs and indigenous education in the Belgian Congo.
Irvine, Judith T. 1993. Mastering African languages: The politics of linguistics in nineteenth-century Senegal. In Special issue:
Nations, colonies, and metropoles. Edited by Daniel Segal and Richard Handler. Social Analysis 33:27–46.
An exploration by a leading linguistic anthropologist of racial and colonial assumptions behind linguistic description in colonial West Africa.
Mannheim, Bruce. 2011. The language of the Inka since the European invasion. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.
A landmark study surveys the cultural history and historical linguistics of Southern Peruvian Quechua, focusing on the sociohistorical and
cultural factors that drove language change in colonial Peru. This is the latest edition.
Mühlhäusler, Peter. 1996. Linguistic ecology: Language change and linguistic imperialism in the Pacific region. London:
Analyzes major linguistic changes in the Pacific language region under colonial rule and globalization in the past two centuries, with an
emphasis on language ecologies and on cultural and historical factors.
Pugach, Sara. 2012. Africa in translation: A history of colonial linguistics in Germany and beyond, 1814–1945. Ann Arbor: Univ. of
Summarizes language description, classification, and historical linguistic research carried out on African languages in Germany and central
Europe under the influence of colonial scientific and administrative projects.
Trautmann, Thomas R. 2006. Languages and nations: The Dravidian proof in colonial Madras. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
A skillful cultural history of the emergence of Indo-European and Dravidian historical linguistics through interactions between British colonial
administrators/scholars and their subjects in 18th-century India.
Religion and Language Change
Since the 1980s, research on colonial evangelization projects has become an important and eminently fruitful subfield in the study of
colonial linguistics. Such an emphasis is made possible, first and foremost, by the survival of thousands of documents in indigenous
languages composed under colonial rule by missionary lexicographers and their indigenous coauthors. While Smith-Stark 2009 is a
comprehensive overview of early lexicographic methods, Burkhart 1989, Durston 2007, and Županov 1999 provide authoritative accounts
about the creation and development of doctrinal discourses among, respectively, speakers of Nahua, Quechua, and Tamil. Hanks 2010 and
Rafael 1993 favor a theoretically driven approach to philological hegemony in Yucatán and the Philippines, respectively. Salomon and
Urioste 1991 presents an extraordinary translation of a Quechua treatise on Andean cosmologies, and Tavárez 2000 sketches a long-term
case study that highlights attempts to control doctrinal translations.
Burkhart, Louise. 1989. The slippery earth: Nahua-Christian moral dialogue in sixteenth-century Mexico. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona
An influential and often-cited study of the context and consequences of the linguistic and cultural dialogue that took place between
Christianized Nahuas and Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian lexicographers in 16th-century Mexico.
Durston, Alan. 2007. Pastoral Quechua: The history of Christian translation in colonial Peru, 1550–1650. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of
Notre Dame Press.
Innovative account of the assumptions, translation choices, and practices of colonial doctrinal authors who first described Quechua and
gave rise to novel textual genres in colonial Peru.
Hanks, William F. 2010. Converting words: Maya in the age of the cross. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
An exhaustive and provocative study of the influence of Franciscan lexicographic and philological analysis in Yucatán, with a strong
emphasis on the notion of Yucatec Maya as a colonized language.
Rafael, Vicente L. 1993. Contracting colonialism: Translation and Christian conversion in Tagalog society under early Spanish
rule. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.
A theoretically inspired examination of colonial lexicographic approaches to the study of Tagalog in the Philippines and its development as a
vehicle for Christian education.
Salomon, Frank, and George L. Urioste. 1991. The Huarochirí manuscript: A testament of ancient and colonial Andean religion.
Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.
Influential critical edition, with abundant anthropological and linguistic commentaries, of the most important surviving alphabetic text
regarding Andean cosmologies before Spanish rule.
Smith-Stark, Thomas. 2009. Lexicography in New Spain 1492–1611. In Missionary linguistics IV: Lexicography. Edited by Otto
Zwartjes, Ramón Arzápalo Marín, and Thomas Smith-Stark, 3–82. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
The best-documented comparative analysis to date of early lexicographical practice among Christian missionaries in colonial Mexico.
Tavárez, David. 2000. Naming the Trinity: From ideologies of translation to dialectics of reception in colonial Nahua texts, 1547–
1771. Colonial Latin American Review 9.1: 21–47.
A longitudinal case study of attempts by colonial lexicographers to translate the notion of the Trinity into Nahuatl in Mexico before and after
Županov, Ines G. 1999. Disputed mission: Jesuit experiments and Brahmanical knowledge in seventeenth-century India. New
Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press.
An inspired treatment of the sociocultural and linguistic underpinnings of Jesuit doctrinal translation projects in precolonial southern India in
the 17th century.
Indo-European Historical Linguistics
These volumes represent a cross section of current knowledge about Indo-European historical linguistics. Beekes 1995 and Fortson 2004
acquaint readers with the fundamentals of this subfield through exercises and a selection of translated primary sources. Collinge 1985 and
Mallory and Adams 1997 are convenient works of reference, particularly with respect to sound change principles and sociocultural
reconstructions based on linguistic data. TITUS and Watkins 2000 may be fruitfully employed for information on early texts and evidence
regarding the semantics and morphology of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European roots, and Watkins 1995 condenses several approaches to
Indo-European poetics through a longitudinal case study.
Beekes, Robert S. P. 1995. Comparative Indo-European linguistics: An introduction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
An updated introduction to the origin and typology of Indo-European languages, which includes exercises based on Proto-Indo-European
Collinge, Neville E. 1985. The laws of Indo-European. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Reference work listing, in alphabetical order, the most important linguistic rules that have been proposed to account for phonological
changes and the reconstruction of etymological roots across Indo-European.
Fortson, Benjamin W., IV. 2004. Indo-European language and culture: An introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Revised survey of comparative Indo-European linguistics that encompasses linguistic analyses, reconstructions, cultural data, and a
selection of texts and inscriptions with translations and etymological assessments.
Mallory, James P., and Douglas Q. Adams, eds. 1997. Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn.
Important reference volume consisting of more than seven hundred entries, either on archaeology and culture or on lexical reconstruction,
authored by a distinguished group of specialists in Indo-European studies.
TITUS: Thesaurus indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien.
This website provides a broad range of materials for the study of early Indo-European languages, which include transcribed primary
sources in translation.
Watkins, Calvert. 1995. How to kill a dragon: Aspects of Indo-European poetics. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Masterful analysis of linguistic and narrative structures that recur in dragon- (or serpent-) slaying accounts in Armenian, Celtic, and
Germanic languages as well as in Greek and Old and Middle Iranian—in the context of Indo-European poetics and oral traditions.
Watkins, Calvert. 2000. The American heritage dictionary of Indo-European roots. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
The most useful one-volume reference handbook for Indo-European roots, presented alphabetically and contextualized through an
impressive array of data.
The study of general principles regarding language change—with a focus on phonological change—constitutes the core of historical
linguistics. While Croft 2000 and Lightfoot 2006 emphasize, respectively, models drawn from evolutionary biology and the role of first-
language acquisition processes, Lass 1997 and Lass 2009 provide piercing and critical reflections on epistemological and methodological
assumptions in historical linguistics. Harris and Campbell 1995 is an authoritative survey of diachronic syntax. Labov 1994–2010 outlines
the results of decades of research on recent changes in several influential English variants in the United States and Great Britain, and Bhat
2001 reviews sound change principles across the main language groupings spoken in South Asia.
Bhat, D. N. Shankara. 2001. Sound change. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Revised edition of well-documented introduction to phonological change, with a focus on examples from South Asian language families,
such as Dravidian, Indo-European, and Tibeto-Burman.
Croft, William. 2000. Explaining language change: An evolutionary approach. Harlow, UK: Longman Linguistics Library.
A bold, interdisciplinary attempt that employs the notion of linguemes—language units embedded in utterances—as elements that may be
analyzed to explain language change employing models and metaphors drawn from natural selection.
Harris, Alice C., and Lyle Campbell. 1995. Historical syntax in cross-linguistic perspective. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 74.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
An influential survey of major topics in diachronic syntax, with a major emphasis on reanalysis, rule extension, borrowing, and cross-
Labov, William. 1994–2010. Principles of linguistic change. 3 vols. Oxford: Blackwell.
Highly authoritative three-volume work by a founding figure of sociolinguistics that discusses the results of half a century of diachronic and
synchronic inquiry into sound changes and dialectology in many cities in the United States and the United Kingdom, with a focus on the
social spaces in which linguistic innovation and variation emerged. Volume 1, Internal Factors; Volume 2, Social Factors; Volume 3,
Cognitive and Cultural Factors.
Lass, Roger. 1997. Historical linguistics and language change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
An important critical and reflective overview of received methods employed for accounting for language change.
Lass, Roger. 2009. On explaining language change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Contends that efforts to model explanations for linguistic change based on epistemological principles used in the natural sciences are
doomed to fail, given the philosophical implications of historical linguistic and philological research paradigms. Originally published in 1980.
Lightfoot, David. 2006. How new languages emerge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
An account of language change and innovation at various levels of linguistic analysis that focuses on the argument that first-language
learners at the childhood stage are the main driving force behind processes of change.
Language Contact and Creolization
This subfield focuses on the structure, status, and theoretical significance of pidgins, creoles, and other languages that emerged as the
result of contact in historically specific situations, such as trade relations, plantation economies, and colonization. Sebba 1987 is a
respected survey of a salient trait in creoles, such as verbal serialization. Arends, et al. 1994; Spears and Winford 1997; and Siegel 2008
outline both the existing consensus and more adventurous approaches to the analysis of pidgins and creoles. DeGraff 1999 and Mufwene
2008 are synthetic, ambitious works that seek to recast basic assumptions about language contact and its consequences and to redraw
analytical boundaries between creolized and noncreolized languages. On the opposite side of the proverbial fence, McWhorter 2005
emphasizes grammatical and structural features that set pidgins and creoles apart from other languages. Mufwene 1998 revisits the history
and structure of African American English from a language contact perspective.
Arends, Jacques, Pieter Muysken, and Norval Smith, eds. 1994. Pidgins and creoles: An introduction. Amsterdam: John
An approachable introduction to the most widely accepted historical and linguistic theories that account for the emergence of pidgins and
creoles, with eight case studies.
deGraff, Michel. 1999. Language creation and language change: Creolization, diachrony, and development. Cambridge, MA:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
Comparative work that examines the development of creole languages from the perspective of both mental representations and individual
innovation, and across generations of speakers, with the aim to present a synthesis of theoretical proposals and empirical observations.
McWhorter, John H. 2005. Defining creole. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Discusses the author’s highly provocative thesis that creole languages possess, as a group, radical synchronic distinctions that set them
apart from noncreole grammars.
Mufwene, Salikoko. 2008. Language evolution: Contact, competition and change. London: Continuum.
Synthetic work that recasts basic linguistic notions, such as language acquisition and transmission, from the perspective of the evolution of
creole languages; language contact in hybrid cultural and linguistic situations; and language ecology, competition, and selection.
Mufwene, Salikoko, ed. 1998. African-American English: Structure, history, and use. London: Routledge.
Edited volume that offers a précis of the distinctive origins and linguistics features of African American English (AAE) as a historically
Sebba, Mark. 1987. The syntax of serial verbs: An investigation into serialisation in Sranan and other languages. Amsterdam:
A landmark contribution that detailed the emergence and structure of verb serialization, a recurring and widespread linguistic feature in
Siegel, Jeff. 2008. The emergence of pidgin and creole languages. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
Timely survey of linguistic theories regarding the emergence of contact languages, which stresses explanations for innovative grammatical
structures as contextualized by data on non-native language acquisition, with case studies of pidgins and creoles spoken in Fiji, Hawaii,
New Caledonia, and Australia.
Spears, Arthur K., and Donald Winford. 1997. The structure and status of pidgins and creoles: Including selected papers from the
meetings of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
An influential rethinking of the categories and basic assumptions in pidgin and creole studies, with a focus on the reconsideration of data on
pidginization and the typology of pidgins and creoles.
Language Documentation and Revitalization
Research in historical linguistics is often inflected with sociocultural and ethical concerns regarding the decline or disappearance of
languages, and speakers of endangered linguistic variants may end up in important collaborative relationships with scholars and cultural
activists. The works cited in this section provide only a glimpse of the vibrancy of current work on language reclamation. Miyaoka, et al.
2007 places the survival of threatened languages in the Pacific Rim in the limelight, and Fishman 2001 provides a cross section of case
studies regarding linguistic and cultural attempts to contain language shift. Frawley, et al. 2002 stresses the creation of dictionaries as an
important component in language documentation and revitalization, and Karttunen 1983 and the Online Nahuatl Dictionary are two
important examples of vocabularies in Nahuatl and Mixtec. England 2003 illustrates both linguistic and sociocultural concerns that have
emerged in language revitalization projects led by Maya scholars in Guatemala. While Vidal López 2009 illustrates the recovery and
transcription of a narrative that is part of a vibrant oral tradition, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project highlights efforts on behalf of
another Amerindian language that is in the process of being reclaimed by speakers with deep historical links to it.
England, Nora C. 2003. Mayan language revival and revitalization politics: Linguists and linguistic ideologies. American
Anthropologist 105.4: 733–743.
Concise article on the politics and cultural meaning of Maya language revitalization in Guatemala, a phenomenon that has been deeply
influenced by historical, phonological, and sociolinguistic data.
Fishman, Joshua A., ed. 2001. Can threatened languages be saved? Reversing language shift, revisited: A 21st century
perspective. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
A compelling overview of attempts to combine historical and descriptive linguistic research with revitalization and language shift projects,
which features seventeen case studies across the globe.
Frawley, William J., Kenneth C. Hill, and Pamela Munro, eds. 2002. Making dictionaries: Preserving indigenous languages of the
Americas. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Edited volume that focuses on the creation of dictionaries and related forms of linguistic description as a means to counter language shift
and language death.
Karttunen, Frances. 1983. An analytical dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.
An exhaustive attempt to both document nominal and verbal forms in classical and contemporary Nahuatl and present a rigorous
morphological analysis of them.
Miyaoka, Osahito, Osamu Sakiyama, and Michael E. Krauss. 2007. The vanishing languages of the Pacific Rim. Oxford: Oxford
Ambitious overview of all languages spoken in the Pacific Rim, with an emphasis on documentation, extinction threats, and proposals for
containing or reversing language shift.
Online Nahuatl Dictionary.
Website developed at the University of Oregon that includes a Nahuatl dictionary compiled at the Instituto de Docencia e Investigación
Etnológica de Zacatecas (IDIEZ) in Mexico, and Mixtec dictionary.
Vidal López, Román. 2009. The origin of the sun and moon: A Copala Triqui legend. Edited and transcribed by George Aaron
Broadwell, Kosuke Matsukawa, Edgar Martín del Campo, Ruth Scipione, and Susan Perdomo. Munich: LINCOM Europa.
A fascinating morphemic analysis and translation of a Triqui oral narrative that showcases the role of traditional storytellers and provides a
local version of an ancient cosmological narrative.
Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project.
Website that publicizes reclamation efforts on behalf of Wôpanâak (Wampanoag), an indigenous language with no native speakers since
the 19th century, directed by the Mashpee Wampanoag linguist Jessie “Little Doe” Baird.
Linguistic Reconstruction and Culture
The contextualization and convergence of historical linguistic data with archaeological, historical, and ethnographic information has
sometimes resulted in analytical breakthroughs, as evidenced by the range of important examples cited in this section. Friedrich 1970;
Mallory 1989; and Carpelan, et al. 2001 emphasize the reconstruction of early Indo-European society and culture and of contacts with their
Uralic-speaking neighbors. Kaufman and Justeson 2007 and works by those who have debated these authors, Smith-Stark 1999 and Hill
2012, provide three salient examples of the deployment of historical linguistic data to reconstruct, respectively, the etymology of an
important cultigen, an entire pantheon of deities, and prehistorical agricultural practices. Ross, et al. 2007 is part of a multivolume attempt to
reconstruct the cultural practices of a prehistoric people primarily through linguistic research. Pollock 2006 is a theoretically significant study
of elite versus vernacular distinctions based on the rise and fall of Sanskrit in early India.
Carpelan, Christian, Asko Parpola, and Petteri Koskikallio, eds. 2001. Early contacts between Uralic and Indo-European:
Linguistic and archaeological considerations; Papers presented at an international symposium held at the Tvärminne Research
Station of the University of Helsinki, 8–10 January 1999. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 242. Helsinki: Suomalais-
Edited work that highlights linguistic, archaeological, and cultural data regarding sustained contacts between speakers of Uralic and Indo-
Friedrich, Paul. 1970. Proto-Indo-European trees: The arboreal system of a prehistoric people. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
An often-cited monograph that sketches a reconstruction of the agricultural and ecological environment of Proto-Indo-European speakers
through an analysis of word roots for tree species.
Hill, Jane H. 2012. Proto-Uto-Aztecan as a Mesoamerican language. Ancient Mesoamerica 23:57–68.
A leading linguistic anthropologist discusses data regarding the reconstruction of Proto-Uto-Aztecan lexical items that relate to
Mesoamerican cultural practices, with a focus on agriculture.
Kaufman, Terrence, and John Justeson. 2007. The history of the word for cacao in ancient Mesoamerica. Ancient Mesoamerica
A longstanding debate in Amerindian historical linguistics with important methodological and historical consequences: while Karen Dakin
and Søren Wichmann argue that the word for “cacao” comes from a Uto-Aztec language, Kaufman and Justeson contend that it comes
from a Mixe-Zoquean language.
Mallory, James P. 1989. In search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, archaeology and myth. London: Thames & Hudson.
Summarizes linguistic and archaeological data collected during more than two centuries of research regarding the geographical setting,
social organization, and culture of Proto-Indo-European speakers.
Pollock, Sheldon I. 2006. The language of the gods in the world of men: Sanskrit, culture, and power in premodern India.
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
A sweeping linguistic and cultural analysis of the emergence and decline of Sanskrit as a medium for the creation of literature and the social
order, with an emphasis on the comparative analysis of elite versus vernacular literatures in India and in Mediterranean societies.
Ross, Malcolm, Andrew Pawley, and Meredith Osmond, eds. 2007. The lexicon of Proto Oceanic: The culture and environment of
ancestral Oceanic society. Vol. 2, The physical environment. Canberra: Australian National Univ. Press
One of an exhaustive volume series that documents the linguistic reconstruction of the material culture and environmental landscape of
Smith-Stark, Thomas. 1999. Dioses, sacerdotes, y sacrificio: Una mirada a la religión zapoteca a través del Vocabulario en lengua
Çapoteca (1578) de Juan de Córdova. In La religión de los Binnigula’sa’. Edited by Víctor de la Cruz and Marcus Winter, 89–195.
Oaxaca, Mexico: Instituto Estatal de Educación Pública de Oaxaca, Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Culturas.
An exemplary reconstruction of the precontact and early colonial cosmology of Zapotec speakers in southern Mexico, based on the
linguistic and philological analysis of a monumental Zapotec-Spanish dictionary printed in 1578.
The comparative method—a comparison of existing linguistic data for the purpose of sorting them into ancestral and recent forms—and the
study of rules regarding proposed sound changes are two methodological approaches that have been employed in historical linguistics
since the inception of Indo-European philology in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sapir 1985 exemplifies the application of comparative
approaches in the field of early Americanist linguistics, and McQuown 1955 provides a classic summary of the typology of Amerindian
languages from a descriptivist vantage point. Lightfoot 1979 is a pioneering work that focuses on general principles of syntactic change.
Swadesh 1954 outlines glottochronology, a much-debated method for tracing time depth based on hypothetical rates of language change;
Renfrew, et al. 2000 surveys state-of-the-art statistical and linguistic approaches to the linguistic study of temporal depth; and Fox 1995 is a
general introduction to reconstruction methodology. Heine and Kuteva 2002 surveys the major assumptions behind grammaticalization, a
process that accounts for linguistic forms that have simultaneous lexical and grammatical functions. Hale 2007 is an influential work that
theorizes language change as innovation in I-grammars (Internalized-grammars) during language acquisition.
Fox, Anthony. 1995. Linguistic reconstruction: An introduction to theory and method. Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics. Oxford:
Oxford Univ. Press.
An accessible guide to linguistic reconstruction that encompasses both received methodological principles and less-established methods.
Hale, Mark. 2007. Historical linguistics: Theory and method. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Provocative work that builds a convincing case for defining language change as a process of innovation in I-grammars (Internalized-
grammars) in first language acquisition, which results from the interface between language data and universal grammar (UG).
Heine, Bernd, and Tania Kuteva. 2002. World lexicon of grammaticalization. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Discusses important generalizations regarding grammaticalization theory, an analytical tool that complements the comparative method by
exploring the unidirectional change of grammatical forms.
Lightfoot, David. 1979. Principles of diachronic syntax. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
One of the first comprehensive analyses of syntactic change through a plethora of examples with important theoretical corollaries.
McQuown, Norman. 1955. The indigenous languages of Latin America. American Anthropologist 57:501–570.
Classic article that documents an early attempt, from an Americanist descriptivist perspective, at classifying and determining the genetic
relationships among the indigenous languages of Spanish America.
Renfrew, Colin, April McMahon, and Larry Trask, eds. 2000. Time depth in historical linguistics. Cambridge, UK: McDonald
Institute for Archaeological Research.
Edited volume that examines a variety of methodological linguistic and statistical approaches for inferring time depth and major splits in
language groupings through language change data.
Sapir, Edward. 1985. The concept of phonetic law as tested in primitive languages by Leonard Bloomfield. In Selected writings of
Edward Sapir in language, culture and personality. Edited by David G. Mandelbaum, 73–82. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Influential early article in Americanist linguistics that employs the comparative method to discuss sound change in several native North
American languages. Originally published in 1931.
Swadesh, Morris. 1954. Perspectives and problems of Amerindian comparative linguistics. Word 10:306–332.
Classic work that discusses glottochronology, the theory that time depth may be inferred from rates of change in a basic, one-hundred-word
lexicon that, according to Swadesh, would remain relatively impervious to change in many languages.
Philology and Ethnohistory
The linguistic and historical study of thousands of surviving texts written by colonial indigenous subjects in their own languages has
emerged as a separate subfield since the 1970s, thanks in part to the efforts of the “New Philology,” an approach that emphasizes research
on long-term patterns of change in indigenous language due to contact and colonization. Lockhart 1992 provides a thoroughly documented
introduction to this approach, which has been extended to the Mixtec in Terraciano 2001. This subfield has been greatly enriched by the
completion of critical editions of important texts, such as the pathbreaking translation of the magnum opus of the missionary lexicographer
Sahagún (Sahagún 1950–1982) by Anderson and Dibble, and Anderson and Schroeder’s edition of some of the works of indigenous
historian Chimalpahin (Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin 1997). Current knowledge about two other monumental works—the Nahuatl
Cantares mexicanos and the K’iché Maya Popol Vuh—has been advanced by, respectively, León-Portilla, et al. 2011 and Tedlock 1996.
Following Lockhart’s lead, Pizzigoni 2012 and Melton-Villanueva 2016 examine an important corpus of Nahua testaments. Tavárez 2017 is
a recent example of the deployment of New Philology and ethnohistorical methods for the study of colonial Christian texts.
Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñón. 1997. Codex Chimalpahin. 2 vols. Translated and
edited by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.
Critical edition of several historical works written by Chimalpahin, the most prolific indigenous historian in the colonial Americas, in his native
León-Portilla, Miguel, Librado Silva Galeana, Francisco Morales Baranda, and Salvador Reyes Equiguas, eds. 2011. Cantares
mexicanos. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Ambitious collaborative translation of a collection of songs, which encompass both precontact religious beliefs and Christian compositions,
compiled and transcribed by literate Nahua speakers in early colonial times.
Lockhart, James. 1992. The Nahuas after the conquest: A social and cultural history of the Indians of central Mexico, sixteenth
through eighteenth centuries. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.
An influential interpretation of three stages of lexical, phonological, and morphosyntactic change in Nahuatl during colonial times in the
context of cultural and social transformations.
Melton-Villanueva, Miriam. 2016. The Aztecs at independence: Nahua culture makers in Central Mexico, 1799–1832. Tucson: Univ.
of Arizona Press.
This study captures the efforts of the last group of Indigenous notaries and testators who used Nahuatl in local testaments at the end of
colonial rule and first decade of independence in Mexico.
Pizzigoni, Caterina. 2012. The life within: Local indigenous society in Mexico’s Toluca valley, 1650–1800. Stanford, CA: Stanford
A thoughtful analysis of Nahua testaments from Toluca, with a focus on land tenure, gender, social status, and local devotions.
Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1950–1982. General history of the things of New Spain: The Florentine Codex. Books 1–12. 13 vols.
Translated and edited by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.
A classic translation and critical edition of a monumental work on the culture, language, rhetoric, and cosmology of the Mexica empire,
which was compiled by a Franciscan lexicographer and several Nahua coauthors in the late 16th century.
Tavárez, David, ed. 2017. Words and worlds turned around: Indigenous Christianities in colonial Latin America. Boulder: Univ. of
In eleven case studies drawn from eight Amerindian languages—Nahuatl, Northern and Valley Zapotec, Quechua, Yucatec Maya, K’iche’
Maya, Q’eqchi’ Maya, and Tupi—this work reveals the manifold transformations of Christian discourses in the colonial Americas.
Tedlock, Dennis. 1996. Popol Vuh: The definitive edition of the Mayan book of the dawn of life and the glories of gods and kings.
Rev. ed. New York: Simon & Schuster.
A carefully researched, annotated translation of the most important colonial alphabetical text regarding Maya cosmology and ethnogenesis.
Terraciano, Kevin. 2001. The Mixtecs of colonial Oaxaca: Ñudzahui history, sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Stanford, CA:
Stanford Univ. Press.
A commanding analysis of language change and sociocultural transitions in the Mixtec cultural area under Spanish rule, with a strong
emphasis on the philological analysis of primary sources in Mixtec.
Writing, Literacy, and Language Change
The convergence of linguistic, historical, and anthropological research about literacy practices and language change has resulted in the
inception of a thriving interdisciplinary subfield. Goody 1986 ignited a round of responses to the thesis that alphabetic literacy had a
uniformly deep and structural impact on “oral” cultures. For instance, Besnier 1995 details a complex transition to literacy practices in a
Polynesian society, and Messick 1993 untangles the rapport among legal practice and the maintenance of texts as a source of political and
religious authority in a society in which oral and literacy practices complement each other. Further afield, Marcus 1992 analyzes elite
literacy in four ancient societies as a phenomenon that required a precise alignment of state legitimacy, public discourse, and textual
hegemony. Tavárez 2011 chronicles the reappropriation of European literacy by rebellious indigenous authors who used it to disseminate
clandestine knowledge in colonial Mexico, Rappaport and Cummins 2011 investigates visually and conceptually diverse forms of literacy
that survived colonial rule in the Andes, and Salomon and Niño-Murcia 2011 documents the long-term accretion and social trajectory of
multiple literacies in a village in central Peru. On the other side of the globe, Spooner and Hanaway 2012 discusses the multiple graphic,
social, and cultural transitions of Persian as a vehicle for poetic expression, diplomatic and trade exchanges, and national identities.
Besnier, Niko. 1995. Literacy, emotion, and authority: Reading and writing on a Polynesian atoll. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ.
Revealing ethnographic and linguistic case study of the transition, over the course of a century, from orality to literacy in Nukulaelae, in a
context that investigates literacy as a social practice.
Goody, Jack. 1986. The logic of writing and the organization of society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
A controversial work that gauges the impact of literacy and writing practices as a radical transformation, using numerous examples that
contrast the development of communicative practices in the ancient Near East, Europe, and contemporary Africa.
Marcus, Joyce. 1992. Mesoamerican writing systems: Propaganda, myth, and history in four ancient civilizations. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton Univ. Press.
Comparative analysis of the social context of hieroglyphic writing in the pre-Hispanic Mexica, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Maya states, which
stresses the uses of elite literacy as a tool for political, cosmological, and genealogical propaganda.
Messick, Brinkley M. 1993. The calligraphic state: Textual domination and history in a Muslim society. Berkeley: Univ. of California
A piercing study of the changing relationships among literacy practices, legal discourse, and political authority in Yemen from the 19th
century to the late 20th century.
Rappaport, Joanne, and Tom Cummins. 2011. Beyond the lettered city: Indigenous literacies in the Andes. Durham, NC: Duke
Surveys the development and sociocultural impact of nonalphabetic forms of literacy in the colonial Andes, with an emphasis on graphically
and conceptually diverse systems of representation.
Salomon, Frank, and Mercedes Niño-Murcia. 2011. The lettered mountain: A Peruvian village’s way with writing. Durham, NC:
Duke Univ. Press.
A landmark longitudinal study of alphabetic, oral, and alternative forms of literacy in the Peruvian community of Huarochirí.
Spooner, Brian, and William L. Hanaway, eds. 2012. Literacy in the Persianate world: Writing and the social order. Philadelphia:
Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.
Edited work encompassing longue-durée transformations in Farsi (Persian) literacy practices, ranging from a transition to the Arabic script
to its role as a trade, diplomatic, and literary language under Ottoman and British administrations and its current status as the national
language in Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan.
Tavárez, David. 2011. The invisible war: Indigenous devotions, discipline, and dissent in colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford
A comprehensive survey of institutional attempts to reform and eradicate Nahua and Zapotec religious practices in colonial Mexico, with a
focus on the reproduction of ritual knowledge through local literacy practices and clandestine authorship networks.
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