National Academy of Sciences
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Election Year: 1996
Scientific Discipline: Anthropology
Membership Type: Member
Victoria Fromkin’s research on linguistics was expansive, ranging from measurement of the underlying muscle movements that distinguish spoken sounds, such as the consonants “b” and “p,” to the phonetic principles of an African language called Akan, and the psychological reasons for aphasias and common errors in speech.
Fromkin completed her undergraduate degree in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1944 and her PhD in linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1965. She received a teaching appointment in the UCLA Department of Speech, then transferred to the Department of Linguistics after it was formed in 1967. Fromkin remained a member of the UCLA Department of Linguistics for the rest of her career, receiving UCLA’s Award for the Art of Teaching in 1974 and being named one of the best teachers of the century by UCLA Today, a faculty and staff publication of the university, in 2000.
Fromkin went beyond teaching, assuming administrative leadership positions at UCLA as chair of the Department of Linguistics, dean of the Graduate Division, and vice chancellor to the University of California system. She also held leadership positions outside of the university, including with the Linguistics Society of America and with the Association of Graduate Schools. Fromkin was the lead author of a best-selling introductory linguistics textbook that has been translated into six languages.