Mary Johnson, Department of Linguistics Student of Distinction

Mary Johnson, Department of Linguistics Student of Distinction

After bouncing around between medical and scientific majors at Fresno City College, Mary Johnson embraced her love for reading and switched her major to English. Then she discovered linguistics when she took an online class to fulfill a general education requirement and was hooked.

At Fresno State, Johnson decided to pursue a double major in Linguistics and English, with a minor in German. She is currently studying abroad in Germany.

“[S]he’s the top undergraduate we have in Linguistics: hardworking, clever, well rounded, and consistent,” said Dr. Chris Golston, professor. “She approaches everything with real drive, and nothing stands up to her fierce intellect.”

Johnson has maintained a high GPA while taking heavy course loads, working as a student assistant, and volunteering at the Fresno County Library.

In addition, Johnson has been working with Holly Wyatt, one of the last Chukchansi language speakers, on a Chukchansi-English guide on how acorns are processed in traditional Yokuts culture. 

“This text will eventually be used as an aid for teaching the children of the Chukchansi tribe the language as well as this traditional cooking method,” said Johnson.

“This kind of work is more often undertaken by graduate students or post-doctoral researchers, not undergraduates, which underscores Mary’s unusual ability and interest in the area of Native American linguistics,” said Dr. John Lyon, assistant professor. 

Golston explains she is also working on another aspect of the Chukchansi language. “Mary is doing a corpus-based study on subordination in the language, based on twenty-seven traditional Chukchansi myths we have translated here from English back into Chukchansi (they were recorded by anthropologists only in English).” 

As president of the Linguistics Club, an honor usually reserved for graduate students, Johnson was instrumental in organizing the Western Conference on Linguistics at Fresno State in Fall 2019.

Johnson plans to continue at Fresno State and earn her master’s degree in linguistics. She looks forward to continuing her work with the Chukchansi tribe. Eventually, Johnson intends to become a professor of Linguistics.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Mary Johnson, Department of Linguistics Student of Distinction

  1. As Mary Johnson’s aunt, I was witness to her unusual “feirce intellect” at age five, when she was able to analyze people’s personalities and thus make mature decisions for herself. Her level of achievement comes as no surprise.


  2. Mary, congratulations! We are all so proud of you. You are missed at the FCPL but glad to hear things are going so well for you.


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