Hailing from a small coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania , Tiffany Kershner began her training in anthropology at the University of Iowa where she graduated with Distinction and Honors in 1994. From Iowa , she moved to SUNY-Albany where she completed a Masters Degree in Anthropology in 1996. Her training continued at Indiana University where she focused on linguistics and African languages, completing her doctorate in Linguistics in 2002. The various research grants and fellowships she has received so far include a USIA Fulbright Fellowship and a Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation.
After two years as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton College (2002-2004), and another two years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2004-2006), Dr. Kershner joined Kansas State University in 2006. She regularly teaches the introductory course in linguistic anthropology and Cultures of Africa and advanced courses in linguistic anthropology, such as Language and Culture, Linguistic Field Methods, and Language and Gender. Outside of her current scholarship on African languages, she is also interested in applied anthropology, medical anthropology, folk classification systems, biodiversity and conservation.
As a linguistic anthropologist and descriptive field linguist, Dr. Kershner is interested in the relations that exist between language on the one hand, and society and culture on the other. Some of her current interests in language and culture include narratives and story telling in Africa , language and gender, language and law, and language and the environment.
In descriptive linguistics, Dr. Kershner is particularly interested in the area of cultural semantics and pragmatics, with a focus on the Bantu languages of Southern and Eastern Africa . Her primary work is in the theoretical areas of verb classification, tense, aspect, and time. Her research for the past 6 years has been on the Bantu language Chisukwa, an endangered language of less than 1000 speakers spoken in three small villages in the Misuku Hills area of northern Malawi . Approximately 10 different languages are spoken in this area and the predominance of some of these other indigenous languages in northern Malawi is pushing Chisukwa to the brink of extinction.
Dr. Kershner's analysis of the Chisukwa language and culture was obtained via 15 months of fieldwork in Malawi (January 2000-April 2001) and was the first linguistic documentation of any aspect of the Chisukwa language. Her fieldwork entailed the recording of various narratives, such as personal biographies, children's stories, historical events, prayers, conversations, and even a beer-drinking song. Currently, she is writing several articles on aspects of the Chisukwa verb system. After finishing work on Chisukwa, Dr. Kershner is to pursue an in-depth investigation of some of the indigenous languages and cultures of Namibia.
Kershner's publications so far include various articles on Chisukwa, on the Bantu language Zulu, and on Hopi, including: