Stephen Chrisomalis

Stephen Chrisomalis

Associate Professor
Graduate Director, Anthropology


3019 F/AB

Curriculum Vitae


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Stephen Chrisomalis

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 book, Numerical Notation: A Comparative History, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, is a cross-cultural cognitive analysis of tems of written numerals as used over the past 5000 years. My work focuses on the relationship between individual cognition and broader social, political, and economic processes. Understanding how tems of 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.

In addition to this work, I 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 also 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 the social and cognitive processes by which Detroit middle school students acquire and use mathematical concepts.  I am working under a newly funded 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.

I am interested in working with graduate students at both the MA and PhD level who are interested in the anthropology of science and mathematics, cognitive anthropology, linguistic anthropology, cross-cultural comparison, or writing and literacy. Please feel free to email me at any time to discuss the possibility of coming to study with me at Wayne State.

Education – Degrees, Licenses, Certifications

  • PhD, Anthropology, McGill University, 2003
  • BA, 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

Selected Publications

2016 Re-evaluating merit: Multiple overlapping factors explain the evolution of numerical notation. Writing Systems Research.

2016 Umpteen reflections on indefinite hyperbolic numerals. American Speech 91(1): 1-31.

2015 Constraint, cognition, and written numeration. Pragmatics and Cognition 21(3): 552-572.

2015 What’s so improper about fractions?: Prescriptivism and language socialization at Math Corps. Language in Society 44(1): 63-85.

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). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

2010. Numerical Notation: A Comparative History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Currently Teaching

  • ANT/LIN 3310 - Language and Culture

Courses taught

ANT/LIN 5320 - Language and Societies - Winter 2017

ANT 7030 - Debates in Anthropology - Winter 2017

ANT/LIN/PSY 5900 - Culture, Language, and Cognition - Winter 2018