Building on a 2013/14 seminar series held at the Institute on Anthropology and Language, there has been a crystallisation of interest in the idea that the RAI should have an interest group devoted to matters of anthropology and language. Language crosscuts all anthropological sub-disciplines, yet scholars are dispersed and without formal national links. Our experience with the first set of seminars was that scholars undertaking anthropology-and-language projects are distributed widely across disciplines and institutions, and welcome the opportunity to connect. The broad intention of the Anthropology and Language Committee is to bring these people together and provide a visible focus for anthropology and language in the UK where none such exists at present.

Secretary Dr Stephen Pax Leonard

The current Committee members are:
(Click on the highlighted name for more information)

David Parkin (Chair) Emeritus Professor Social Anthropology, All Souls College and School of Anthropology, Oxford. International Consortium on Language Superdiversity (InCoLaS). Interests: multi-modal semiosis; semantic shift and density; cultural key words; political rhetoric; indexicality; signing; cross-over talk; ontological translanguaging; language evolution and creativity. Regions of interest: eastern Africa; China; European cities. Main Languages: English, Swahili, Luo, Giriama, French, German. 

Stephen Pax Leonard (Secretary) Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a linguistic anthropologist based at Exeter College, Oxford. Previously, he has worked in the Arctic and sub-Arctic region with a focus on ethnography of speaking. Currently, his primary interests centre around issues of language and ideology (particularly ideologies of authoritarian and quasi-totalitarian States) and issues of language and anthropology of the radio.

Elisabeth Hsu Professor in Anthropology, School of Anthropology, University of Oxford. Interests: linguistic pragmatics, interpretive medical anthropology and semantics; indexicality, phono-aesthetics, physiognomy of language, language and body; histories of language, text critical studies.  Fieldwork undertaken in: China, SW China, East Africa. Languages:  German, English, French, Chinese (modern and literary); Greek, Latin, (Italian).

Fiona Jordan Professor of Anthropology, Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Bristol. Research Associate, Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Interests: linguistic diversity; evolutionary and historical processes; semantic systems; kinship systems and terminology; language and cognition; phylogenetic and quantitative methods. Regions of interest: the Pacific, especially Austronesian-speaking regions; Lowland South America; Bantu; Dravidian.

David Zeitlyn Professor of Social Anthropology, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography University of Oxford. Interests: sociolinguistics; indexicality; conversation analysis; language and power; politeness; historical linguistics. Regions of interest: Cameroon, Nigeria. Main Languages: English, Mambila, French

Alexandra Pillen Lecturer in Linguistic Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University College London. Interests: the anthropological study of rhetoric in war-torn societies, evidentiality, indirect communication, the anthropology of sound. Regions of interest: Kurdish communities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and London.  Languages: Flemish, Kurdish (Kurmanci), Spanish, Sinhala, English, French.

Kirsty Rowan Senior Teaching Fellow in Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies. Interests: Endangered language and living heritage documentation and revitalisation, language ecologies, language and landscape, ethnophysiography, toponymy, phono-symbolism, writing systems. Regions of interest: Sudan, Egypt, Nubia, Nubian diaspora. Languages: Nile Nubian, Meroitic, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic. 

Jonathan Roper Senior Researcher in English and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu, Estonia. Interests: linguistic purism, language ideology, toponymy, paremiology, the uses of alliteration, writing systems. Regions of interest: England, West Friesland, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Theresia Hofer Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Bristol and Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Interests: sign languages and deaf socialities, embodied signifying movement, gesture and “natural” sign, indexicality, language ideologies, linguistic vitality and endangerment, translanguaging in cities. Regions of interest: Tibet and the Himalayas, Japan, Central Europe. Languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Central Tibetan, literary Tibetan, Tibetan Sign Language, basic British & Austrian Sign Language (BSL & OEGS) and Norwegian; Latin. 


Affiliated Scholars




Past RAI Events in Anthropology and Language