MacArthur Fellows Program

Shirley Brice Heath

Anthropological Linguist | Class of November 1984

Anthropological Linguist
Stanford, California
45 at time of award
Area of Focus
Published November 1, 1984

About Shirley's Work

Shirley Brice Heath is an anthropological linguist whose research and writing center on language acquisition and literate behaviors in various sociocultural contexts, as well as on the role of literature in language socialization and forms of literacy.

Heath is the author of Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (1983) and numerous publications on the language and culture of different social and ethnic groups.  Her studies in minority-language communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United States focus on how community members learn oral and written language.  She has taught at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont, where she pursues interests in the relation of language and culture, bringing perspectives from social science and literary theory.  Her research has focused on language use among youths in neighborhood organizations in selected inner-city locations.


Heath is a Professor-at-Large at Brown University, where she is also a visiting professor at the Watson Institute.  She is the director of Creative Partnerships, an international enquiry network, and the Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature and professor of linguistics, emerita at Stanford University. 

Heath received a B.A. (1962) from Lynchburg College, an M.A. (1964) from Ball State University, and a Ph.D. (1970) from Columbia University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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