Call for Papers

Terrell (terrell@FMNH785.FMNH.ORG)
Thu, 21 Sep 1995 14:16:54 -0500

American Anthropological Association
November 20-24th *** 1996 ***
San Francisco, CA

Symposium: "Archaeology, Language, and Culture History"
Organizer: John Edward Terrell, New Guinea Research Program,
The Field Museum, Chicago (312) 922-9410 X330
E-mail: and

Abstract: Language is commonly taken as a marker of ethnic and
racial identity. Language boundaries are often seen as barriers
isolating people from one another. As the renowned anthropologist
Alfred Kroeber once wrote: "While populations can learn and unlearn
languages, they tend to do so with reluctance and infinite slowness,
especially while they remain in their inherited territories. Speech
tends to be one of the most persistent populational characters; and
'ethnic' boundaries are most often speech boundaries." On this
basis, language history ought to parallel culture history and the
history of human genes. It can be argued, however, that language
has been free to vary independently of biology and culture throughout
most, maybe all, of human prehistory. This would seem to be what
an older generation of anthropologists meant when they said race,
language, and culture are separate dimensions of the human condition
in spite of what common sense might tell us. But common sense is a
powerful intellectual force. Today as yesterday, not everyone agrees
that race, language, and culture can march to different drummers.
Common sense needs to be countered by archaeological, ethnohistoric, and
sociolinguistic models and examples setting out the conditions under
which language is (a) likely to vary with biology and culture, and
(b) unlikely to do so.

Individuals who are working on such examples and models are invited
to contact Dr. John Terrell at The Field Museum for further information
on this proposed symposium.