My name is Dr. Stephen Chrisomalis, and I am a linguistic anthropologist who specializes in the anthropology of mathematics and the interaction of language, cognition, and culture. My four-field anthropological training includes work in cultural, cognitive, archaeological and linguistic anthropology.
My new book, Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History, published by MIT Press in 2020, investigates numbers and mathematics as both sociocultural and cognitive phenomena. Numbers are not just mathematical objects - they are ways of representing, understanding, and manipulating aspects of the world. My previous book, Numerical Notation: A Comparative History, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, is a cross-cultural cognitive analysis of written numerals over the past 5000 years. I investigate the relationship between individual cognition and broader social, political, and economic processes. Understanding how number words and number symbols interact in specific contexts - how they are used rather than simply how they are structured - helps us to rethink assumptions such as the widely-held belief that we are now at the 'end of history' of numbers. I also publish and supervise work on cross-cultural methods and theories in anthropology, the anthropology of writing, literacy, and numeracy, and the history of anthropology. I am the author of the academic blog, Glossographia.
Since 2008, I have been undertaking linguistic and ethnographic research with the Math Corps at WSU, aiming to understand how Detroit middle school students acquire and use mathematical concepts. I am working under a National Science Foundation grant to support this research along with colleagues at four institutions. My other new research projects include a sociolinguistic investigation of changes in the English numeral system since 1800.
Research interest(s)/area of expertise
Anthropology of mathematics
Writing systems and literacy
I am actively recruiting M.A. and Ph.D. students who are interested in linguistic anthropology, the anthropology of science and mathematics, cognitive anthropology, writing and literacy, and the anthropology of education. Contact the department for more information about our graduate programs, or email me to discuss the possibility of coming to study with me at Wayne State.
- Ph.D., Anthropology, McGill University, 2003
- B.A., Anthropology, McMaster University, 1996
Awards and grants
Developing and studying the replication of Math Corps, an out-of-school-time mathematics program for urban youth ($2,999,922), National Science Foundation (AISL: Advancing Informal STEM Learning), award #1612400 (2016-2021)
- 2023 Embodying measurement. Science Embodying measurement. Science, 380(6648), 894-895. science.org/stoken/author-tokens/ST-1223/full
- 2021 The scope of linguistic relativity in graphic and lexical numeration. Language & Communication 76(1): 1-12. doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2020.09.006
- 2020 Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History. MIT Press
- 2018 The writing of numbers: recounting and recomposing numerical notations. Terrain: anthropologie et sciences humaines 70 (Oct 2018). http://journals.openedition.org/terrain/17506 ; DOI : 10.4000/terrain.17506
- 2018 Beller, Sieghard; Bender, Andrea; Chrisomalis, Stephen; Jordan, Fiona; Overmann, Karenleigh; Saxe, Geoffrey; Schlimm, Dirk. The cultural challenge in mathematical cognition. Journal of Numerical Cognition 4(2): 448–463. dx.doi.org/10.5964/jnc.v4i2.137
- 2017 Re-evaluating merit: Multiple overlapping factors explain the evolution of numerical notation. Writing Systems Research. dx.doi.org/10.1080/17586801.2016.1227688
- 2016 Umpteen reflections on indefinite hyperbolic numerals. American Speech 91(1): 1-31. dx.doi.org/10.1215/00031283-3509480
- 2015 Constraint, cognition, and written numeration. Pragmatics and Cognition 21(3): 552-572. dx.doi.org/10.1075/pc.21.3.08chr
- 2015 What’s so improper about fractions?: Prescriptivism and language socialization at Math Corps. Language in Society 44(1): 63-85. doi.org/10.1017/S0047404514000748
- 2013 Greatness in the Math Corps family: integrating ethnographic and corpus-based approaches to a conceptual metaphor. Language and Communication 33(3): 155-166
- 2013. Human Expeditions: Inspired by Bruce Trigger (ed., with Andre Costopoulos). University of Toronto Press
- 2010. Numerical Notation: A Comparative History. Cambridge University Press