Welcome to Glossographia, a blog dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of language from a social scientific perspective. I am Stephen Chrisomalis, an anthropologist working at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I will be writing about the intersection of linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, evolutionary theory, cognitive science, epigraphy, literacy studies, and the history of science and mathematics, among other things. While my focus will be academic, I’m aiming to present material that will be accessible and interesting to non-specialists and specialists alike.
My primary research focus is on the anthropology of mathematics, specifically numerical systems. My forthcoming book, A Comparative History of Numerical Notation, 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 will undoubtedly write about it here.
In my non-professional life I am the creator and maintainer of the Phrontistery, a site dedicated to the love of English lexicography and specifically rare and obscure words. Some of the posts that will appear here over the next few months will be older posts from the Phrontistery, and I will occasionally cross-post material at both sites, but largely the two should remain distinct.
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 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.
While I’m not a great fan of the word ‘blogosphere’, I see academic blogs as a modern, egalitarian equivalent of literary salons – 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!