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James A. Fox

jim fox

James A. Fox

Ph.D. Linguistics Chicago, 1978
Research Interests: 
Linguistic anthropology, historical linguistics, biology and evolution of language, archaeological decipherment, settlement of the New World, mythology, computational methods; Mesoamerica, Americas.


I am a linguistic anthropologist in the Dept. of Anthropology (and, by courtesy, in the Depts. of Linguistics and Iberian & Latin American Studies), specializing in historical linguistics, linguistic prehistory, and the native languages of the Americas. My research interests are focused on the history of the Mayan and Mixe-Zoquean language families, distant language relationships in the Americas and elsewhere, and the decipherment of Mayan writing. I am currently working on: a book on the inscriptions of Chichen Itza, a dictionary and grammar of Ayapa Zoque (Tabasco, Mexico); a treatise on Mayan historical linguistics, and a translation of the Quiché mythological epic Popol Vuh.

I have done several summers of linguistic fieldwork in southern Mexico, where I am working intensively with a few speakers of Ayapa Zoque, a nearly-extinct language of the Gulf Zoquean family, believed to be a linguistic descendant of the language of the Olmec civilization. This research was first conducted as a part of the Mesoamerican Languages Documentation Project, and later supported by the Stanford Center for Latin American Studies (of which I was Director from 2001-2004), and most recently by the Vodafone Corporation. This year I expect to get the first and second books out. I have also conducted archival and field research on various Mayan languages, and on Russenorsk, a mixed Russo-Norwegian pidgin language of northern Norway. I have compiled a field checklist for use in preparing for fieldwork. I keep it pretty much up to date and appreciate feedback from fieldworkers who have used it in their own preparations.

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses at Stanford on linguistic anthropology, historical linguistics, language and culture, language and the environment, the biology and evolution of language, Mayan writing and culture, linguistic field methods, and several Latin American Indian languages, including Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, and Quiché Mayan . I have given freshman and sophomore seminars involving my research on the Quiché Mayan poetic masterpiece, Popol Vuh, and related multimedia, and on Language and the Brain. I am a frequent lecturer on tours of Mesoamerica and Scandinavia for the Stanford Alumni Association's Travel Study Program. I served as a principal consultant on Patricia Amlin's film, Popol Vuh: Creation Myth of the Ancient Maya , which aired on PBS. In the summer of 1994, I was a consultant for the Stanford Museum of Art's special exhibit on the Mesoamerican ball game. I have also consulted on middle- and secondary-school course materials involving Mesoamerican prehistory.

See Jim Fox's website.