Sandra Chung to deliver 51st annual Faculty Research Lecture

Sandra Chung (photo by Scott Rappaport)
UC Santa Cruz professor of linguistics Sandra Chung will deliver the 51st annual Faculty Research Lecture on Tuesday, February 7, at 7 p.m. at the Music Recital Hall in the Performing Arts Complex.

The annual Faculty Research Lecture is the foremost academic research honor bestowed by the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate.

Chung will speak on the topic “Language Through the Lens of Diversity.”

Trained in linguistics at Harvard University, Chung’s research focuses on syntax and semantics, and her contributions are empirical as well as theoretical. Her work helps explain similarities and differences of word order and agreement across languages, and their implications for communication and meaning.

“My two fields are syntactic theory and Austronesian languages--a family of some 1,200 languages dispersed over a vast area that includes the Pacific,” said Chung. “I've spent most of my academic life studying the structure of a very few of these languages: Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Indonesian, and especially Chamorro.”  

“Although some Austronesian languages have millions of speakers, most are 'small' languages spoken by relatively small populations and many are endangered,” she added. “Chamorro, for instance, is an indigenous language of the Mariana Islands, in the Western Pacific. The language has roughly 40,000 speakers in the Marianas and is in the early stages of language endangerment. Working on small languages like Chamorro has helped me to appreciate how much they have to contribute to syntactic theory.”

Chung noted that her lecture will focus on Chamorro and touch on some of the larger theoretical and socio-political issues that frame her research.

An internationally renowned scholar, Chung is a past president of the Linguistics Society of America and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  She has received several National Science Foundation grants, and her affiliations beyond the University of California include the Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik.

She was honored with the Governor's Humanities Award for Preserving Traditional Cultural Practices (U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), and is a former Lansdowne Scholar and Fulbright Scholar.

Chung has served as an editorial board member for several top-tier journals, including Linguistic Inquiry, Language; Language and Linguistics; Te Reo; and the Journal of East Asian Linguistics. She has also delivered more than 70 papers at conferences, professional meetings, and universities in the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, Jakarta, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and has authored or co-authored over 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

Chung is additionally a recipient of the UC Santa Cruz Excellence in Teaching Award and the Innovations in Teaching Award. And her American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowship noted her “distinguished contributions to teaching and research in linguistics, advancing syntax through insights from under-studied languages, notably Chamorro, and engaging minority communities in linguistic research.”

Since joining the UC Santa Cruz faculty in 1986, Chung has served as chair of the Linguistics Department, chair of the Philosophy Department, and chair of the Committee on Academic Personnel. In addition to teaching syntax courses for the Linguistics major, she also teaches undergraduate classes in logic, poetics, and historical linguistics.

A reception in the lobby will immediately follow the lecture. Admission is free and open to the public.