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Anthony Di Fiore, Chair SAC 4.102, Mailcode C3200 78712 • 512-471-4206

Anthony K. Webster

Professor Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Associate Professor
Anthony K. Webster



I am a linguistic anthropologist who studies ethnopoetics and verbal art more generally. My focus is on the intersections between verbal art and poetics, acoustemology, language change, language contact, aesthetics, and linguistic and social inequalities.  Questions of identity and identification loom large here as does the imagination and expressive satisfication. My goal in this work is not so much "translation," but rather with the proceses of attunement. I have worked primarily with Navajo poets. I earned my Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department here.






Linguistic anthropology, ethnopoetics, speech play and verbal art, Navajo, Apache, Native American language and culture, language and emotion, iconicity, anthropology of sound, linguistic landscapes, anthropology of tourism and vacationing.

ANT 320L • Amer Indian Langs And Culs

31615 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am SAC 4.118
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This course explores the myriad of indigenous languages (variously conceived) of the North America and how they are intertwined with culture. The focus of this course is from the perspectives of linguistic anthropology and an ethnography of speaking. That is, the indigenous languages of the Americas will be considered with respect to their phonologies, complex morphologies, discursive structures, and historical relations as well as their place within the sociocultural milieu of speakers. Focus will be on issues concerning literacy, language change, language shift, speech play, language and gender, verbal art, language ideologies and the quotidian ways of getting things done in and through language.  Language is made real in use. We will look to the uses and users of language.


ANT 393 • Speech Play And Verbal Art

31940 • Spring 2014
Meets T 200pm-500pm SAC 4.116
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This course explores the sociocultural and linguistic foundations and uses of speech play and verbal art. We will explore a variety of kinds of speech play and verbal art (from jokes, to songs, to stories, to puns, to poetry). Issues to be discussed will revolve around the social uses of speech play and verbal art (what is being commented on and what is being done through such poetic uses of language), questions of translation, aesthetics, and changes in the uses and aesthetic judgments of speech play and verbal art. Far from a marginal pursuit of anthropology, this class will place a concern with speech play and verbal art at the center of questions about identity, power and inequality, and language ideologies. Speech play and verbal art become central to understanding the language, culture, society, and individual nexus.


ANT 393 • Language Is, As & Thru Emotion

31633 • Fall 2013
Meets T 100pm-400pm SAC 4.116
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This class begins a discussion on the ways that language and emotion are intertwined, intermingled, and co-animating. One way of talking about this issue is as language as a way to express emotions. Another way of exploring this issue concerns the emotional attachments that adhere to language and expressive forms. A third linked way of engaging this issue is to look at the ways that the language of emotion is an emergent property that co-animates affective attachments to expressive forms. To engage this discussion we will read a number of ethnographies that focus on expressive forms from laments to letters to poetry and the emotional attachments that are both created and expressed through such forms.

ANT S307 • Culture And Communication

81993 • Summer 2013
Meets MTWTHF 1000am-1130am SAC 4.118
(also listed as LIN S312 )
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An introduction to the study of culture through communication and the theory of signs. This class introduces and explores the nature and structure of the “uniquely” human achievement known as “language.” In so doing, we examine (briefly) the structural properties of language (i.e., morphology, syntax, semantics, and phonology) and the social and cultural embeddedness of language in use. Languages are social and cultural practices and linguistic anthropologists attend to that interface between languages, cultures, and the individual.



Under contract An Ethnography of Navajo Poetry. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. (anticipated publication date 2015)

2009  Explorations in Navajo poetry and poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Guest Edited Journals:

2013  Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice: On the Legacy of Dell Hymes. Special Issue Journal of Folklore Research. (co-editor with Paul V. Kroskrity). 50(1-3): 1-299.

2012  Ordeals of Language: Essays in Honor of Ellen B. Basso. Special Issue Journal of Anthropological Research. (co-editor with Juan Luis Rodriguez). 68(3). 305-422.

2011  American Indian Languages in Unexpected Places. Special Issue American Indian Culture & Research Journal. (co-editor with Leighton C. Peterson). 35(2): 1-182.


To appear Rex Lee Jim’s ‘Na’asts’ǫǫsí:’ On Iconicity, Interwoven-ness, and Ideophones. Pragmatics and Society.

To appear “Everything got kinda strange after awhile:” Some reflections on translating Navajo poetry that should not be translated. Anthropology & Humanism.

To appear The poetry of sound and the sound of poetry: Navajo poetry, phonological iconicity, and linguistic relativity. Semiotica.

To appear DIF' G'ONE' and Semiotic Calquing: A signography of the linguistic landscape of the Navajo Nation. Journal of Anthropological Research.

2014   “A Note on Albert Gatschet’s Lipan Apache Elicitations.” International Journal of American Linguistics. 80(1): 115-117.

2013   “The validity of Navajo is in its sounds:” On Hymes, Navajo Poetry, Punning, and the Recognition of Voice. Journal of Folklore Research. 50(1-3): 117-144.

2013  Speech Play and Language Ideologies in Navajo Terminology Development. (with Leighton C. Peterson) Pragmatics. 23(1): 93-116.

2012   “Don’t Talk About It”: Navajo poets and their ordeals of language. Journal of Anthropological Research. 68(3): 399-414.

2012   Blackhorse Mitchell’s ‘Beauty of Navajoland’: Bivalency, dooajinída, and the work of contemporary Navajo poetry. Semiotica. 189(1/4): 97-131.

2012  Who reads Navajo poetry and what are they reading? Exploring the semiotic functions of contemporary written Navajo. Social Semiotics. 22(4):375-408.

2011  “We don’t know what we become:” Navajo ethnopoetics and expressive features in a poem by Rex Lee Jim. (with Blackhorse Mitchell) Anthropological Linguistics. 53(3): 259-286.

2011   “Please Read Loose:” Intimate Grammars and Unexpected Languages in Contemporary Navajo Literature. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 35(2): 61-86.

2011  Introduction: American Indian Languages in Unexpected Places. (with Leighton C. Peterson). Special Issue: American Indian Languages in Unexpected Places. (edited by Leighton C. Peterson and Anthony K. Webster). American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 35(2): 1-18.

2010  On Intimate Grammars, with examples from Navajo English, Navlish, and Navajo. Journal of Anthropological Research.66(2): 187-208.

2010   “Tséyi’ First, Because Navajo Language Was Here Before Contact:” On Intercultural Performances, Metasemiotic Stereotypes, and the Dynamics of Place. Semiotica. 181(1/4):149-178.

2010   A Note on Navajo Interlingual Puns. International Journal of American Linguistics. 76 (2): 289-298.

2010   Imagining Navajo in the Boarding School: Laura Tohe’s No Parole Today and the Intimacy of Language Ideologies. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 20(1): 39-62.

2009   The Poetics and Politics of Navajo Ideophony in Contemporary Navajo Poetry. Language & Communication.29(2): 133-151.

2008  “Plaza’góó and before he can respond...”: Language Ideology, Bilingual Navajo, and Navajo Poetry. Pragmatics. 18(3): 511-541.

2008  Running Again, Roasting Again, Touching Again:  On repetition, heightened affective expressivity and the utility of linguaculture in Navajo and beyond. Journal of American Folklore. 121(482): 441-472.

2008  “To give an imagination to the listeners:” The neglected poetics of Navajo ideophony. Semiotica. 171 (1/4):343-365.

2008  A Note on Plains Apache Warpath Vocabulary. International Journal of American Linguistics. 74(2): 257-261.

2008  “To all the Former Cats and Stomps of the Navajo Nation:” Performance, the individual, and cultural poetic traditions. Language in Society. 37(1): 61-89.

2006  On Speaking to him (Coyote): The Discourse Functions of the yi-/bi- alternation in some Chiricahua Apache Narratives. Southwest Journal of Linguistics. 25(2): 143-160. 

2006  ‘Ałk’idą́ą́’ Mą’ii Jooldlosh, Jiní: Poetic Devices in Navajo Oral and Written Poetry. Anthropological Linguistics. 48 (3): 233-265.

2006  Keeping the Word: On Orality and Literacy (with a sideways glance at Navajo). Oral Tradition. 21(2): 295-324.

2006  The Mouse that Sucked: On “Translating” a Navajo Poem. Studies in American Indian Literature. 18(1): 37-49.

2004   Coyote Poems: Navajo Poetry, Intertextuality, and Language Choice. American Indian Culture and Research Journal.  28(4): 69-91.

2000  The politics of Apache place-names: Or why ‘Dripping Springs’ does not equal ‘Tónoogah.’ Texas Linguistic Forum. 43: 223-232.

1999  Sam Kenoi’s Coyote Stories: Rhetoric and Poetics in some Chiricahua Narratives. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 23(1): 137-163.

Chapters in books:

2012  John Watchman’s Ma’ii and Skunk. (with Blackhorse Mitchell). In Inside Dazzling Mountains: Southwest Native Verbal Art (edited by David Kozak). University of Nebraska Press. 150-172.

2012   Samuel E. Kenoi’s Portraits of White Men. In Inside Dazzling Mountains: Southwest Native Verbal Art (edited by David Kozak). University of Nebraska Press. 175-193.

2012   “To Give an Imagination to the Listener:” Replicating Proper Ways ofSpeaking In and Through Contemporary Navajo Poetry. In Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities. (ed. Paul Kroskrity) Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 205-227.

2012   Southern Athapaskan Quotative Evidentials: A Discursive Areal Typology. From the Land of the Ever Winter to the American Southwest: Athapaskan Migrations, Mobility, and Ethnogenesis. (ed. Deni J. Seymour). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. 286-302.

2011  How a television is like a urinating donkey and other things I learned studying Navajo poetics: Bilingual Navajo, Puns and Ideophony. Proceedings of the First Biennial Symposium on Teaching Indigenous Languages of Latin America (STILLA 2008). (eds. Serafín M. Coronel Molina and John H. McDowell). 35-47.

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