Linguistics students present at conferences around the world

~ By Kaitlin C. Meier, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities

Five graduate students from the Department of Linguistics; Zahra Alzebaidi, Jason Peed, John Simonian, Zach Metzler and Trevor Driscoll, presented their work at conferences this year ranging from Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City to Manchester, England, and Montreal, Canada. Also, undergraduate linguistics student Julia Whelan is set to present this fall in Stockholm, Sweden.

For the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah Jan. 4-7, Zahra Alzebaidi presented her work “Guerrero Nahuatl and the Polysynthesis Parameter,” examining the syntactic structure of Guerrero Nahuatl, an indigenous language spoken around Mexico.

“LSA was a huge and prestigious conference,” said Alzebaidi. “I was honored to be accepted there and I had the chance and the pleasure to meet many well-known linguists whom I really admire.”

The knowledge of linguistics that Alzebaidi acquired in her time at Fresno State played a key role in her achievements: “The courses I took at Fresno State enlarged and deepened my knowledge in linguistics. The support and advice from my professors, weekly colloquia in the department and the friendly environment I had at Fresno State were all instrumental in leading me toward my academic goals.”

Distinguished International Graduate Nominee Zahra Alzebaidi. Country of Origin: Saudi Arabia. MA-Linguistics. College of Arts and Humanities
Pictured above: Zahra Alzebaidi being recognized as a nominee for Distinguished International Graduate

Alzebaidi will begin her Ph.D. at Cornell University in the fall and plans to become a contributing researcher in the field of linguistics.

In this year’s Workshop on American Indigenous Languages located at UC Santa Barbara April 20-21, both Jason Peed and John Simonian presented their research.

Peed spoke on the local endangered language Chukchansi in his talk “A Quantity-Sensitive Trochaic Analysis of Chukchansi Yokuts.”

Simonian presented his piece “Codas in Crow,” centered on original data he collected on the Crow language spoken on a reservation in southeastern Montana. 

“My experience presenting at WAIL this year was quite lovely,” said Simonian. “My presentation ‘Codas in Crow’ is based on the field work I’ve been lucky enough to conduct as a student at our Linguistics Department. At WAIL, I was able to meet and chat with linguists that I had been reading the work of for years.”

The students have had the opportunity to study a variety of languages due to the access provided through the Linguistics Department.

Dr. Chris Golston, professor of linguistics, explained, “Much of the impetus for this came from hiring Professor John Boyle, a specialist on Native American languages, who has really invigorated student work on the Siouan languages Crow and Hidatsa. This has added to work we were already doing with Chukchansi, Mixtec, and Nahuatl, but it takes great students to do great work and final credit goes to them.”

“We have a very lively research environment amongst the students in the department, and we are fortunate to have such talented students doing this important original research,” said Dr. Brian Agbayani, chair of the Linguistics Department.

Simonian also presented at the Manchester Phonology Meeting in Manchester, England May 23-26, along with Zach Metzler and Trevor Driscoll.

While in Manchester, Simonian presented work related to the Crow language with his piece “Amplitude as a Measure of Stress in Crow.”

Metzler and Driscoll presented their collaborative work titled “Loud, Even Iambs: Evidence Against the Iambic/Trochaic Law” that focuses on the original data they collected on Hidatsa, a Siouan language spoken in North Dakota.

“Manchester was cool because Trevor and I were two of four Fresno people there, with Dr. Chris Golston and fellow grad student John Simonian also presenting,” said Metzler. 

Zach Metzler, Trevor Driscoll and Dr. Chris Golston in front of a statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester, England.
Pictured in photo above, from left: Zach Metzler, Trevor Driscoll and Dr. Chris Golston in front of a statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester, England.

Metzler and Driscoll, who are each currently working toward completing their graduate work at Fresno State, also presented their collaborative piece at the Tenth North American Phonology Conference hosted by Concordia University in Montreal, Canada May 4-5.

Driscoll presented an additional work titled “Harmonic Bounding of Degenerate Iambs: An Unintended Consequence of Foot Binarity” that deals with issues in metrical phonology.

“These trips in May were the first opportunity I had to present my work to people outside of the Fresno State Linguistics Department,” said Driscoll. “I was exposed to different specializations in phonology and frameworks that were completely new to me, along with gaining feedback from highly experienced scholars that I believe will be helpful in developing and publishing my research.”

Having students’ work showcased on a larger scale is one of many great facets encouraged by the College:

“It’s very rewarding to see our students presenting on the world stage,” said Dr. Golston. “The Linguistics Department is incredibly proud of all this fine student work.”

The next linguistic student to present this year is Julia Whelan, an undergraduate student presenting this fall at the 2018 NordMetrik conference: Metrics and versification in poetry and song in Stockholm, Sweden Sept. 13-15.

“This conference is a very exciting opportunity,” said Whelan. “I look forward to meeting linguists from around the world and hearing some interesting presentations at the conference.”

Whelan will be presenting work done in a research project titled “Dactylic Hexameter Isn’t Dactylic” that focuses on Latin epic poetry through analyzing the poetic meter of two works by Virgil, the famous Roman poet.


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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

One thought on “Linguistics students present at conferences around the world

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