Swallow Hall, a 19th Century Gothic Building,
home of the Department of Anthropology

N. Louanna Furbee

N. Louanna Furbee
Cultural Anthropology
Office Address: 
112 Swallow Hall

My intellectual concerns are language, culture, and thought, and the relationships among them. I am both a Mesoamericanist, specifically a Mayanist, and an Andeanist. I have also worked in the North American Great Plains.

In January 2003, I took early retirement to work more extensively on the research interests I outline below, and to involve myself more with service to the profession - efforts to maintain languages. I spend about half the year in the field in Latin America (in Chiapas, Mexico, and in Peru), but I continue to work with graduate and under- graduate students.

Selected Honors, Professional Offices, and Affiliations
The Victoria A. Fromkin Award for Lifetime Service, Linguistic Society of America, 2007

Gold Chalk Award for Graduate Teaching, Graduate School, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1995

Investigadora Huespeda, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Unidad Sureste, San Cristobal de Las Casas, 2009-present

Archivist (1998-2009; Co-archivist 1996-98), Linguistic Society of America

Executive Committee (2000-2006), Foundation for Endangered Languages

President, Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, 1988

Chair, The SSILA Book Award Selection Committee, 1989

Investigadora Afiliada, El Centro de Investigaciones en Salud de Comitán, Chiapas, 2001-2010

Fellowships Panel, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2005

Grants Panel, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 2001-2003

Fellowships Panel, Ford Foundation for Minority Fellowships, 1990-95, Chair 1993-9

Editorial Boards, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (1990-1996); Journal of Mayan Linguistics (1978-1982)

Accepted. Robert A. Benfer, N. Louanna Furbee, and Hugo Ludeña R. El mito del zorro: desde 4000 años adentro la cosmología del Sud America. In Deidades, paisaje y astronomía en la cosmovisión Andina y Mesoamerica. Edited by Juan Pablo Villanueva Hidalgo. Lima, El Perú: La Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

In Press. [2011] Robert A. Benfer, N. Louanna Furbee, and Hugo Ludeña R. Four-thousand Years of the Myth of the Fox in South American Cosmology. Journal of Cosmology.

2010 N. Louanna Furbee. Language Documentation: Theory and Practice. In Lenore A. Grenoble and N. Louanna Furbee, Editors. Language Documentation: Practice and Values. Pp. 3-24. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

2010 Hermelindo Aguilar Méndez, Juan Méndez Vázquez, Teresa López Méndez, Maria Bertha Sántis Pérez, Ramon Jiménez Jiménez, Louanna del Socorro Guillén Rovelo, N. Louanna Furbee, Robert A. Benfer, and Rolando Tinoco Ojangueren. Saving Languages, Saving Lives: Tojolabal May Language Revival within a Health Research NGO. In Lenore A. Grenoble and N. Louanna Furbee, Editors. Pg. 222-230. Language Documentation: Practice and Values. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

2008 N. Louanna Furbee. Norman Anthony McQuown (1914-2005). American Anthropologist 110:162-165.

2006 N. Louanna Furbee. Language and the Religion of Politics in Chiapas. In Catherine O'Neil, Mary Scoggin and Kevin Tuite, editors. Language, Culture and the Individual. A Tribute to Paul Friedrich. Pp. 189-204. Munich: LingCom.

2006 N. Louanna Furbee. La tradición literaria renacida en tojolabal. Entre Tejas, No. 7-9.


I am pursuing four research interests at present:

I am writing a book about a miracle that occurred in a Tojolab'al Maya village and is the religious reflection of the Zapatista Revolt in Mexico.

I am engaged in efforts to maintain endangered languages through electronic archiving and revitalization. Tojolabal colleagues and I formed a language documentation center for Tojolabal Mayan in Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico, and recently registered it as a Mexican Non-Profit (Centro de Documentación del Idioma Tojolabal, A.C.—CDIT, A.C.). CDIT, A.C. is creating a network of satellite documentation centers in Tojolabal villages through to document and revitalize this language (see attached pdf). CDIT archives materials electronically at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (www.ailla.utexas.org).

I recently completed 13 years of service as archivist for the Linguistic Society of America, during which I convened "conversations" on appropriate roles for the Society in the archiving of endangered languages. Lenore Grenoble and I edited a book (just published Language Documentation: Practice and Values, John Benjamins, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 2010) based in part on papers from an LSA conference we and Arienne Dwyer organized.

Colleagues at CDIT, A.C., in Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico, and I am co-constructing a "metamodel" of Evidentials in Tojolab'al (words or other markers speakers use to indicate certainty in the truth of the information). We are basing our analysis on interviews we collected in a prior study of the effect of the language in which an interview is conducted on the information obtained from bilingual speakers. We are also working on an analysis of the Status Markers in Tojolab'al (verb inflection that labels the verb clauses as independent or subordinate).

Selected Publications: 

2011 N. Louanna Furbee. Evidentials and the Analysis of Tojol-ab'al Mayan Interviews. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, Pittsburgh, PA, January 8, 2011.

2010 N. Louanna Furbee (with help from Ramon Jiménez Jiménez, Hermelindo Aguilar Méndez, Teresa López Méndez, Maria Bertha Sántiz Pérez, and Juan Méndez Vázquez). A Bouquet for Bob Laughlin. Presentation in Crossing Mesoamerican Boundaries: The Multiple Contributions of Robert M. Laughlin, organized by Thor Anderson, Annual Meeting, American Anthropological Association, Nov. 18, 2010.

2010 N. Louanna Furbee. Contagious Education as a Model: The Context and Philosophy of the Tojol-ab'al Language Documentation Project. Paper presented in the Symposium on "Contagious Education" in Endangered language Documentation and Renewal. Annual Meeting, Society for Applied Anthropology, Merida, Yucatán, Mexico, March 24-27, 2010.

2010 N. Louanna Furbee. Status Markers Distinguish Independent from Conjunct Verbs in Tojol-ab'al (Mayan). Paper presented at the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, Baltimore, Maryland, January 10, 2010.

2008 Ramon Jiménez Jiménez, Teresa López Méndez, Juan Méndez Vázquez, Maria Bertha Sántis Pérez, Hermelindo Aguilar Méndez, Louanna del Socorro Guillén Rovelo, and N. Louanna Furbee. El Centro de Documentación del Idioma Tojolabal. Paper presented in the Primero Foro de Planificacion Lingüística, 24-26 September 2008, Universidad Nacional de los Indigenes de Chiapas.

2007 N. Louanna Furbee. Tojolabal Reflexes of a Classic Maya Rhetorical Structure and Its Discourse Markers. (T 126/M-L 32M & T 679/M-L YM1). Poster presented to the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, LSA, Anaheim, Jan. 7, 2007.

2006 N. Louanna Furbee. The LSA Conversation on Endangered Languages Archiving. Presentation to the Executive Committee, Linguistic Society of America, Albuquerque, 5 January 2006.