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Jeffrey Williams, Ph.D.

Giving Voice to a Spectrum of Almost Forgotten Tongues

Jeff Williams, Ph.D., serves as Interim Dean and is Professor of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences.  He came to Tech in 2006 through a national search for chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work.

Williams earned his doctorate in linguistics in 1987; his MA in linguistics in 1984; and, his baccalaureate in anthropology in 1980, all from The University of Texas at Austin.  Prior to coming to TTU in 2006, he had been on the faculty at The University of Sydney (Australia), Vanderbilt University, and Cleveland State University, where he served as department chairperson for 10 years. 

His teaching areas cover anthropological linguistics, ethnographic and linguistic field methods, language contact and change, sociolinguistics, phonology and morphology, cultures of Oceania, Caribbean societies, anthropology of sound, and other topical courses at the intersection of language and culture.

Williams worked with The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Anti-Defamation League, and greater Cleveland area schools developing a diversity awareness program that focused on the role of music in human culture.

Williams’ research is primarily field-based, involving ethnographically- and historically-informed sociolinguistic description.  He has conducted fieldwork in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea; among urban Aboriginal groups in Sydney, Australia; on the Ramah Navajo reservation in western New Mexico; with speakers of the Jarai (Chamic, Vietnam) language in Texas and North Carolina; and on numerous islands in the anglophone and francophone West Indies.

Since 2009, he has been working with Comanche Nation College and Dr. Todd McDaniels, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at CNC, on efforts to develop instructional materials for the Comanche language.  The project was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services for two and a half years.

He authored or edited over 100 scholarly publications, primarily in the field of linguistics.  His most recent co-edited project, The Lesser-Known Varieties of English, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.  He has just completed another sole editing project for CUP entitled The Aesthetics of Grammar:  Sound and Meaning in the Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia that will appear in 2013.  He has an invited chapter (‘Areal features of English varieties in the Caribbean’) that will appear at the end of 2012 in the volume Areal Features of the Anglophone World, edited by Raymond Hickey and published by Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.  He has also written on rodeo studies, tourist art, and bagpipe traditions.

Williams’ service to the field includes reviewing for scholarly journals in linguistics, sociolinguistics, and cultural anthropology; academic presses; grant review for the National Science Foundation; and academic consulting for National Geographic and other institutions.

Interim Dean Jeffrey Williams

Interim Dean, College of Arts & Sciences


  • Anthropological Linguistics


  • Ethnographically- and Historically-Informed Sociolinguistic Description


  • The Lesser-Known Varieties of English
    (2011, Cambridge University Press)
  • The Aesthetics of Grammar:  Sound and Meaning in the Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia
    (2013, Cambridge University Press)