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Doctoral program takes new look at language

February 13, 2008

The Arizona Board of Regents recently approved an innovative ASU doctoral degree program that will create a new generation of highly skilled language researchers to address real-world problems using a unique interdisciplinary approach.

The applied linguistics doctoral degree program seeks to prepare solution-focused linguists ready to tackle major global challenges linked to issues of language and literacy.

The program – a collaboration of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – will be guided by an interdisciplinary faculty from many areas of the university, including curriculum and instruction; English; humanities; educational leadership and policy studies; language, cultures and history; human evolution and social change; computer science and engineering; philosophy; and psychology.

Linguists endeavor to understand the universals of language, including how it is learned and processed, as well as its influence on international policy, philosophy, social sciences, cognitive sciences and education. The field of applied linguistics complements this work by questioning how language affects people’s daily lives and daily needs.

“In an urban area as large as the Phoenix metropolitan community, the inhabitants bring a diversity of cultures and languages to enrich social interaction,” says Deborah Losse, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The teaching and research done through the new interdisciplinary doctorate in applied linguistics will assist the community and communities beyond the Phoenix area in facing new challenges in the schools, in the homes and in the civic sphere.”

The new program will combine research topics in the linguistic sciences and education to pursue principled approaches to language-related concerns. Unlike other universities, where applied linguistics is focused on adult language learners, ASU will center its program on simultaneous and developmental bilingualism in children and adolescents.

The program also seeks to extend ASU’s global outreach. One of the concentration areas is English as an international language (more commonly referred to as English as a foreign language). Among other things, doctoral students will research the learning, teaching and use of English in an international context to help develop research-based policies supporting English education in international settings.

ASU’s program also will examine indigenous language education, including the maintenance and revitalization of native languages in tribal communities.

“The applied linguistics doctoral program will draw upon the talents of faculty in the Fulton College, and in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to improve our understanding of bilingualism and biliteracy, Native American language education issues and many other important issues,” says Sarah Hudelson, the senior associate dean for academic programs and personnel with the Fulton College. “Linguistics and applied linguistics at ASU has a long history of interdisciplinary work. The new applied linguistics doctorate will draw upon this history to create a place for faculty and students across the university to work together on important issues in language study and language education.”

Jeff MacSwan, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction with the Fulton College, and the applied linguistics program’s director and chair, says the program will feature a foundation in theoretical linguistics that will likely fuel expanded course offerings in syntax, semantics and phonology, and attract new faculty experts.

“As a result, we can expand the intellectual support for research in linguistics across the discipline,” MacSwan says, adding that the program also will more closely connect ASU scholars interested in issues related to language and literacy.

Losse says the programmatic emphasis will benefit graduate students, faculty and eventually undergraduate students who may work on linguistics research projects.

The program’s five areas of concentration are bilingualism, educational linguistics, English as an international language, indigenous language education and language policy and planning.

Applicants to this interdisciplinary program can have academic preparation in any field but must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Applications are due to the Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Programs Office by Feb. 29 for admission this fall.

For more information, visit the Web site or contact the office at (480) 965-4602.

Verina Palmer Martin,
(480) 965-4911
Mary Lou Fulton College of Education