Victoria A. Fromkin, R.I.P.

Bruce Dykes bkd at GRAPHNET.COM
Tue Jan 25 09:29:24 UTC 2000

>From the Bergen Record:

Noted linguistics expert Victoria A. Fromkin, 76
Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Special from the Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Victoria A. Fromkin, an internationally known linguistics
expert who taught at the University of California at Los Angeles for 25
years and became the university's first female vice chancellor, has died.
She was 76.

Ms. Fromkin, who co-wrote the best-selling textbook "An Introduction to
Language," which has been translated into six languages, died last Wednesday
of colon cancer.

Known for her little notebook and careful ear for errors as well as for
compiling the recent anthology "Linguistics: An Introduction to Linguistic
Theory," Ms. Fromkin personally collected more than 12,000 examples of slips
of the tongue. While she acknowledged that they were often funny, she
gathered them as evidence of how the brain processes language.

The scholar was adept at reeling off "spoonerisms," the transposition of
sounds named for the Rev. William A. Spooner (1844-1930), the Oxford
professor who purportedly said such things as: "You have hissed all my
mystery lectures . . . in fact, you have tasted the whole worm" instead of
"You have missed all my history lectures . . . in fact, you have wasted the
whole term."

Even if she could spark laughter with her material, Ms. Fromkin was taken
very seriously as an expert on the linguistic significance of speech errors,
brain and language, phonetics and psycholinguistics.

Her reach extended far beyond the classroom and lecture platform. She was
consulted as an expert on language by news media as well as educators and
researchers, and when the questions didn't get asked, she sometimes
volunteered the answers anyway. After the Los Angeles Times sparked a debate
in 1995 about possible language problems for toddlers raised by nannies who
spoke a different tongue, Ms. Fromkin fired off a letter to the editor.

"Years of linguistic research show that children will learn any language to
which they are exposed before puberty, and that learning or being exposed to
a second or third or fourth language will not negatively affect the
acquisition of any of them," she reassured readers.

Ms. Fromkin was president of the Linguistic Society of America, chairwoman
of the board of governors of the Academy of Aphasia, and an executive board
member of the Permanent International Committee of Linguists.

After joining the UCLA linguistics faculty in 1965, she chaired the
department from 1973 to 1977 and was dean of the UCLA graduate division from
1979 to 1989.

>From 1980 to 1989, Ms. Fromkin was vice chancellor of graduate programs, the
first woman in the University of California system to hold that rank.

Ms. Fromkin formally retired in the early 1990s but continued her research
and writing.

Survivors include her husband, Jack Fromkin.

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