Linguistic anthropologists examine the relationships between language, culture, and society.
Speaking in Tongues
Beni Sumer Yanthan
A scholar from Nagaland in India offers visceral, familial insights on language and culture loss in her Indigenous tribal community.
Why I Ask My Students to Swear in Class
Marnie Thomson and Kyle Hunteman
An anthropologist uses explicit insults to get students thinking about gender and power in everyday language. Plus, a brief explainer on the slang term “sus.”
Indigenizing What It Means to be Human
Margaret Noodin, Christine Weeber, and Jason Vasser-Elong
SAPIENS offers a curated collection of poems and stories that center Indigenous values, worldviews, and insights, creatively reimagining anthropology and the human experience.
Best of SAPIENS 2022
In a year of continuing global conflagrations, anthropologists investigated a wide range of pressing and curious questions about humanity’s past, present, and future. Here are the editors’ picks for this year's most compelling contributions.
How a Song Bridged Diné and Ndebele Worlds
An anthropologist recounts a magical moment of songwriting collaboration between Diné (Navajo) and Ndebele artists gathered for the WOMAD Festival in South Africa.
What Commentators Get Wrong (and Right) About North Korea
An anthropologist argues that unfair portrayals of North Korea as a hopelessly irrational hermit state has huge implications for policy and security.
What Is Linguistic Anthropology?
Sonia N. Das
Linguistic anthropologists study language in context, revealing how people’s ways of communicating and expressing themselves interact with human culture, history, politics, identity, and much more.
The Aztec Antichrist Chronicles Indigenous Resistance and Religious Conversion
An exceedingly rare notebook from 16th-century Mexico contains plays about the Antichrist told by the Aztecs’ descendants. An anthropologist recounts his rediscovery of the notebook and explains the plays’ unique insights into Indigenous Christianity.
Aztec Antichrist: A Performance of the Apocalypse
A 16th-century play written by the descendants of the Aztecs after the Spanish conquest dramatically reveals Indigenous people’s responses to their religious conversion.
Why AI Will Never Fully Capture Human Language
Researchers in artificial intelligence have made extraordinary strides in mimicking human language—but they still can’t capture the parts that truly make language human.
How Deaf and Hearing Friends Co-Navigate the World
Rachel Kolb and Timothy Y. Loh
For deaf people in the U.S., accessibility has become synonymous with provisioning professional sign language interpreters. But in everyday life, deaf people’s experiences of “access” often include more informal language facilitation such as “friendterpreting.”
What Klingon and Other Constructed Languages Reveal
Meet Christine Schreyer, a linguistic anthropologist who created the Kryptonian language for a Superman movie and researches the people who invent new tongues and seek to sustain ancient ones.
What the Vai Script Reveals About the Evolution of Writing
In the 19th century, a man living in present-day Liberia dreamed of the first script for his native Vai language. Today linguistic anthropologists are digging into the script’s evolution—and what the changes over the past two centuries reveal about human cognition and society.
What Is SAPIENS Magazine?
Launched in 2016, SAPIENS magazine brings anthropology to the public through accessible, thought-provoking, and entertaining stories.
Does Green on COVID-19 Maps Mean What You Think?
Daniel Ginsberg and Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein
COVID-19 “heat maps” are intended to help the public evaluate health risks during the pandemic. But the guidelines the CDC and other institutions use to create these maps can lead to confusion. Two linguistic anthropologists help make sense of what these maps really mean.
What Is Anthropology?
The broad field of anthropology is the science of humanity that studies “everything human,” focusing on what makes different people human in their own distinctive ways.
How to Promote Research on Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for researchers to share their work and engage an array of audiences. Here are the basics to get started.
The Politics of “Ukraine” Versus “the Ukraine”
Kathryn E. Graber
In Russian, the difference between the terms “Ukraine” and “the Ukraine” is not just descriptive or geographical.
How to Write an Op-Ed: A SAPIENS Workshop
In this online webinar, SAPIENS Editor-in-Chief Chip Colwell explains the ins-and-outs of writing op-eds or opinion essays for the magazine and its peer publications.
Why English Might Let Go of “He” and “She”
A linguistic anthropologist invites English-speaking cisgendered allies to stop using “she” and “he” to advance radical gender inclusion.
Can Indigenous Language Comics Save a Mother Tongue?
Publishers and researchers are creating graphic publications to help stem the loss of Hñäñho, spoken by the Ñäñho people.
Five Questions About Writing the African Diaspora
In this free live event, anthropologist and SAPIENS poet-in-residence Justin Wright, answers five questions about the African Diaspora poetry and prose project.
How to Work With a Developmental Editor
Writing for SAPIENS and similar magazines involves close collaboration with developmental editors. Here’s how the process works—and what you can do to make the partnership as fruitful as possible.
Do You Want to Write for SAPIENS?
A free online webinar by SAPIENS Editor-in-Chief Chip Colwell to learn about how to write for the magazine and its peer publications.
How to Pitch: A Guide for Anthropologists
To write for SAPIENS and most popular magazines and newspapers, writers must “pitch” their idea to editors. Here is how the process works.
Why Write for SAPIENS?
SAPIENS magazine publishes on anthropological research, discoveries, and insights. If you’re an anthropologist, here’s why you might consider contributing your story.
What’s Left Unsaid When a Language Dies
Deep in Papua New Guinea, the speakers of Tayap have stopped using their native tongue. In
A Death in the Rainforest
, an anthropologist recounts his journey over three decades to find out why.
Why Do Virtual Meetings Feel So Weird?
Even as online meetings become more common, they can’t always capture the nuances of nonverbal communication and in-person interactions.
How to Write an Essay: A Guide for Anthropologists
Writing about anthropology for a general audience is different from writing for academics. Some simple tips can help.
What White Power Supporters Hear Trump Saying
The term “political correctness” can be readily deployed as a racist dog whistle—one that President Donald Trump has been blowing with increasing vigor since his election in 2016.
Why Capitalizing “Black” Matters
SAPIENS supports and adopts the recent change made by many publications to capitalize Black in recognition of the significance of a person or group’s identity—yet, as an anthropology magazine, we must dive deeper into the “myth of race.”
What Does Baseball’s Bilingualism Reveal?
Brendan H. O'Connor
A linguistic anthropologist who is also a baseball aficionado reflects on what can be learned from how language mashups play out on and off the baseball diamond.
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An editorially independent anthropology magazine of the Wenner-Gren Foundation
& University of Chicago Press