Franz Boas (1858–1942) was unquestionably the preeminent figure in twentieth century North American anthropology. He established the four-field structure of the discipline around cultural, physical, linguistic and archaeological studies of the American Indian and trained most of the fledging anthropologists who professionalized anthropology and moved it from government, learned society, and museum into the academy (Darnell 1998). Boas himself contributed to all four subdisciplines. His work on rapid changes in immigrant head form undercut eugenics arguments and diminished the importance of anthropometric measures of race. Race became an arbitrary category, best approached by anthropology as racism. Although he strongly supported Afro-American anti-racism, particularly through his friendship with W. E. B. Dubois (Baker 1998), Boas also had a personal stake in mitigating anti-Semitism. His archaeological work was more perfunctory, and students interested in archaeology and physical anthropology were usually sent to Harvard. In the study of culture, Boas’s theoretical contributions revolved around his critique of evolution, his rejection of rationalist theories of human nature, his historical particularism, his insistence on rigorous ethnographic method, and his emphasis on “the native point of view.” This essay, however, focuses primarily on Boas’s wide-ranging contributions to Amerindian linguistics and their inseparability from his views on culture.
1998Rethinking Race at the Turn of the Century: W.E.B. Du Bois and Franz Boas. In From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896–1954: 99–126. Columbia University Press.
1996The Culture as it Appears to the Indian Himself: Boas, George Hunt, and the Methods of Ethnography. In G.W. Stocking ed. Volksgeist as Method and Ethic. History of Anthropology. 8: 215–256 University of Wisconsin Press.
1887The Study of Geography. In F. Boas (1940): 639–647.
1889On Alternating Sounds. American Anthropologist 2: 47–53.
1896The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology. In F. Boas (1940): 270–280.
1911aHandbook of American Indian Languages. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 40.
1911bThe Mind of Primitive Man. Macmillan.
1917Introduction International Journal of American Linguistics. In F. Boas (1940): 199–210.
1940Race, Language and Culture. Free Press.
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1994Theory Groups and the Study of Language in North America. Benjamins.
1891Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Report for 1885–86:7–139.
1927The Mind of Primitive Man. Dover.
1916Time Perspective in Aboriginal American Culture: A Study in Method. Canadian Department of Mines, Geological Survey, Memoir, 90 Anthropological Series, 13.
1921A Bird’s Eye View of North American Languages North of Mexico. Science 54: 408.
1925Sound Patterns of Language. Language 1: 37–51.
1929Central and North American Languages. Encyclopedia Britannica 5: 138–141.
1933The Psychological Reality of the Phoneme. In D. Mandelbaum (ed.) Selected Writings of Edward Sapir: 46–60. University of California Press.
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1968Race Culture and Evolution: Essays in the Historiography of Anthropology. Free Press.
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1974The Boas Plan for the Study of American Indian Languages. In D. Hymes (ed.) Traditions and Paradigms in the History of Linguistics: 454–484. Indiana University Press.
1951Diffusional Cumulation and Archaic Residue as Historical Explanations. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 7: 1–21. BoP
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