~ By Eddie Hughes, senior editor for Fresno State Magazine, illustration by Joel Beery, excerpted from Fresno State Magazine, Spring/Summer 2017
Research — it’s science. Or, in some cases, maybe it’s not. But scientific theories and hypotheses are being investigated, revised and applied across all eight schools and colleges at Fresno State.
From preserving indigenous languages in the College of Arts and Humanities, to drone research in the Lyles College of Engineering, to air pollution research in the College of Health and Human Services, Fresno State faculty and students are tackling some of the region’s most pressing issues and developing new ideas and solutions every day.
For students, this focus on applied research offers opportunities to take classroom learning out into the field and gain valuable experience that will help provide solutions for the region or boost job skills needed after graduation.
While many research studies are underway on campus — 245 projects were presented at the annual Central California Research Symposium — here is a look at what the Department of Linguistics is doing to preserve indigenous languages.
Study: Preserving Native Language
~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities
Professors and students at Fresno State are working with Native American communities, both locally and in other parts of the U.S., to preserve endangered native languages. Many tribes are in danger of losing their native language because only a few fluent speakers remain.
Two teams of Fresno State linguists recently returned from doing summer field work with teachers of Crow and Hidatsa, two Siouan languages spoken on the great northern plains.
Grad student Zach Metzler traveled 1,620 miles with Professors John Boyle and Chris Golston to New Town, North Dakota, in July for the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Summer Institute, an intensive, three-week summer training institute for MHA teachers and learners.
“Our team was especially focused on Hidatsa, the sister language to Crow,” Golston said. Metzler has been studying the amplitude of vowels in the language and Golston and Boyle have been working with Wolfgang Kehrein, at the University of
Groningen, on consonants.
A larger contingent – three undergraduates (Diamond Henderson, Deanna Davis, and Trevor Driscoll), grad student John Simonian and alumna Heather McGrew – traveled to Montana with Boyle and Golston in June to help out at the Crow Summer Institute.
Linguists at Fresno State are interested in how such words are made in the grammars of these languages, Golston said, and in how the sound-systems of the languages interact with their word- and sentence-systems. Crow and Hidatsa are part of the larger Siouan family of languages.
“Our students helped run the [Crow Summer] Institute and edited over 4,000 sound-files for TheLanguage Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing native American languages,” Golston wrote.
Since 2009, faculty members Dr. Chris Golston, Adisasmito-Smith and Brian Agbayani have worked to revitalize the Chukchansi language, devise a writing system, start the process of developing a Chukchansi dictionary and grammar and preserve traditional stories and myths.
Every 14 days a language is lost forever, according to The Language Conservancy. Only 12 speakers of the Chukchansi language remain. Dr. Niken Adisasmito-Smith meets twice a week with native speaker Holly Wyatt of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi, translating myths back into the Chukchansi language.
Grad student Metzler, who earned his bachelor’s degree in German from Bethel College in Kansas in 2012, said this was his first time making a trip to the North Dakota reservation with the professors. Before this trip, Metzler had worked with data collected from previous field work, back on campus.
“The highlight was getting to work with a language that few people have access to,” Metzler said. “The primary goal is, of course, to keep the language alive, and being on the ground for that is an experience that any linguist should have. It was great finally getting to interact with the people I had been studying. Making those close connections was deeply gratifying.”
Click here to read the full article from Fresno State Magazine about research efforts across campus.
Click here to read “Research Engine: A University where high-tech thinking meets hands-on solutions.”