7 Questions with Chair of the Linguistics Department Dr. Sean Fulop

Sean Fulop poses with a grey background.

The Linguistics Department at Fresno State studies the human capacity for language. As a defining characteristic of the human experience, without language, civilization, culture, scientific and technological development would not be possible. Linguists investigate the nature of language, its structure, diversity, universality, historical change and how it is used in society. While rooted in science, the study of the nature of language is fundamental to the understanding of what it is to be human.

With this in mind, we opened a conversation with the Chair of the Department of Linguistics Dr. Sean Fulop to find out more about the department and what makes it unique in the College of Arts and Humanities.

What makes the linguistics department at Fresno State stand out? Why is it unique?

Since Linguistics incorporates scientific methodologies, many of us see it as more of a science than a humanities discipline, in many of its aspects.  So especially within the College, it is unlike any other department because of this.  Many of our programs require several courses from the College of Science and Math.  In keeping with this, the only B.S. degree offered in our college, the Cognitive Science degree, is housed in Linguistics.  

What degrees and programs are available through the Linguistics Department?

Our BA programs in Linguistics can be taken as any one of 4 distinct options:

  • General Linguistics
  • Teaching English as a Second Language / Second Language Acquisition and Teaching
  • Interdisciplinary Language Studies 
  • Computational Linguistics

In addition, we also have the B.S. in Cognitive Science available.

At the Graduate level, our MA in Linguistics can be completed on its own, or with the option in TESL/SLAT.

What jobs can students expect to find after graduating? What are some of the unique positions our alumni have?

There are so many options for students in their education, this will really determine the kinds of jobs that could be pursued. Some of our alumni have landed jobs at technology companies including Google and Facebook; these students will mostly come from the option in Computational Linguistics or the Cognitive Science major.  Other alumni pursue teaching English as a Second Language, both in the US and abroad.  Other careers include publishing, editing, native language conservancy, and teaching other languages that students may be expert in, e.g., Chinese or Japanese.     

Tell us about the Indigenous Language Group? What kind of work do they do? What are they working on now?

The members of our Indigenous Language Group work with an expanding array of native American languages, including Chukchansi (whose local rancheria gave our College a substantial gift to pursue conservation work), other Yokuts languages spoken nearby, but also Crow and Mixtec among others more far afield.  A complete list of the languages our people have worked on is available on the department website with links to some informative materials.

What other institutes are housed in the Linguistics Department?

We recently launched the Hub for Language Teaching and Learning, which is a focal point for projects promoting education in key languages of the San Joaquin Valley, including Spanish, Hmong, Portuguese and Armenian.  Prof. Jaydene Elvin is the Hub coordinator.

What is WECOL? Why is it important?

The Western Conference on Linguistics is a small international conference that has quite a long history in the USA.  Spearheaded by Fresno State, it used to rotate among various universities in the West but has recently been held annually at Fresno State.  It is one of many small international conferences on all aspects of linguistics which give researchers and students the opportunity to present their latest work in a low-stress, friendly setting.  Presented papers are also published in our conference proceedings online.

Is there anything I missed? Anything you’d like to add?

As a small program with just 10 students for each professor, we are able to provide our students a lot of one-on-one mentoring.

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