John S. Justeson
Interests: Linguistics, historical linguistics, language and prehistory, variation and change, writing systems, probabilistic and simulation models, Mesoamerican languages and hieroglyphic writing, Elamite, Indus Valley writing.
My research focuses theoretically on evolution and adaptation in the organization of symbolic systems, chiefly on writing systems and spoken languages, and culturally on ancient Mesoamerica. Theoretically, I am interested in models of the structure of symbolic systems that can capture the fact that they are constantly in flux, as a byproduct of their normal use, and that are socially contextualized in terms of their uses and modes of transmission. Empirically, I am involved in problem-oriented comparative research on writing systems, case studies on particular languages and scripts, and computational research using multi-million-word text databases. In Mesoamerican studies, I am involved in comparative reconstruction of earlier Mayan languages, and the inferences that can be made from the histories of these languages about ancient Mayan history. I am especially active in the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphic writing, and am known particularly for applying results both from mayan historical linguistics and from my comparative studies of writing in analyses of the representational principles of the Mayan script; for work on developmental trends in the script, and their sources in the interaction between language and script structure; and for initiating the recovery of information from hieroglyphic data for Mayan historical linguistics. Most recently, with Terrence Kaufman, I have produced a decipherment of a major portion of the Late Preclassic epi-Olmec hieroglyphs.
Jointly appointed in the Program in Linguistics and Cognitive Science.
Research of John Justeson
Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica (PDLMA) / El Proyecto para la Documentación de las Lenguas de Mesoamérica (PDLMA)
Articles and Book Chapters
Justeson, John and Laurence Stephens. The Evolution of Syllabaries from Alphabets: Transmission Language Contrast, and Script Typology. Die Sprache, 35.
Justeson, John and Terrence Kaufman. A decipherment of epi-Olmec hieroglyphic writing. Science 259:1703-1711.
Justeson, John and Peter Mathews. Developmental Trends in Mesoamerican Hieroglyphic Writing. Visible Language 24:86-132.
The Representational Conventions of Mayan Hieroglyphic Writing. In Word and Image in Maya Culture: Explorations in Language, Writing and Representation, William F. Hanks and Don S. Rice, eds, pp. 25-38. University of Utah Press.
Justeson, John, William Norman, Lyle Campbell, and Terrance Kaufman. The Foreign Impact on Lowland Mayan Language and Script. Middle American Research Institute Publication 53.