Victoria Fromkin

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Victoria Fromkin
Victoria Alexandra Landish

(1923-05-16)May 16, 1923
DiedFebruary 19, 2000(2000-02-19) (aged 76)
Scientific career
Institutions UCLA

Victoria Fromkin (May 16, 1923 – January 19, 2000) was an American linguist who taught at UCLA. She studied slips of the tongue, mishearing, and other speech errors and applied this to phonology, the study of how the sounds of a language are organized in the mind. [1]

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in spoken languages and signs in sign languages. It used to be only the study of the systems of phonemes in spoken languages, but it may also cover any linguistic analysis either at a level beneath the word or at all levels of language where sound or signs are structured to convey linguistic meaning.



Fromkin was born in Passaic, New Jersey as Victoria Alexandra Landish on May 16, 1923. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1944. She married Jack Fromkin, a childhood friend from Passaic, in 1948, and they settled in Los Angeles, California. She decided to head back to school to study linguistics in her late 30s. [2] She enrolled at UCLA, received her master's in 1963 and her Ph.D in 1965. Her thesis was entitled, "Some phonetic specifications of linguistic units: an electromyographic investigation". [3] That same year, Fromkin joined the faculty of the linguistics department at UCLA. [4]

Passaic, New Jersey City in Passaic County, New Jersey, U.S.

Passaic is a city in Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 69,781, maintaining its status as the 15th largest municipality in New Jersey with an increase of 1,920 residents (+2.8%) from the 2000 Census population of 67,861, which had in turn increased by 9,820 (+16.9%) from the 58,041 counted in the 1990 Census. Passaic is the tenth most densely populated municipality in the entire United States with 22,000+ people per square mile.

Her line of research mainly dealt with speech errors and slips of the tongue. She collected more than 12,000 examples of slips of the tongue, which were analyzed in a number of scholarly publications, notably her 1971 Language [5] article and an edited volume, Speech Errors as Linguistic Evidence. [6]

From 1971 to 1975, Fromkin was part of a team of linguistic researchers studying the speech of the "feral child" known as Genie. Genie had spent the first 13 years of her life in severe isolation, and Fromkin and her associates hoped that her case would illuminate the process of language acquisition after the critical period. [7] [8] However, the study ended after rancorous disputes over Genie's care, and the loss of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health. [9] Fromkin published several papers about Genie's linguistic development. [10]

Feral child human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age

A feral child is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and so has had little or no experience of human care, behavior or human language. There are several confirmed cases and other speculative ones. Feral children may have experienced severe abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. They are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends, typically portrayed as having been raised by animals.

Genie (feral child) Abused and neglected child studied by linguists

Genie is the pseudonym of an American feral child who was a victim of severe abuse, neglect, and social isolation. Her circumstances are prominently recorded in the annals of linguistics and abnormal child psychology. When she was a baby, her father concluded that she was severely mentally retarded, a view which intensified as she got older, causing him to dislike her and withhold care and attention. At approximately the time she reached the age of 20 months, he decided to keep her as socially isolated as possible as a result of this belief, so he kept her locked alone in a room from that time until she reached the age of 13 years and 7 months. During this period, he almost always kept her strapped to a child's toilet or bound her in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized, forbade anyone from interacting with her, provided her with almost no stimulation of any kind, and left her severely malnourished. The extent of her isolation prevented her from being exposed to any significant amount of speech, and she did not acquire language during her childhood as a result. Her abuse came to the attention of Los Angeles child welfare authorities on November 4, 1970.

Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate.

In 1974, Fromkin was commissioned by the producers of the children's television series Land of the Lost to create a constructed language for a species of primitive cavemen/primates called the Pakuni. Fromkin developed a 300-word vocabulary and syntax for the series, and translated scripts into her created Pakuni language for the series' first two seasons. [11] [12]

<i>Land of the Lost</i> (1974 TV series) television series

Land of the Lost (1974–1976) is a children's adventure television series created by David Gerrold and produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, who co-developed the series with Allan Foshko. During its original run, it was broadcast on the NBC television network. It later aired in daily syndication from 1978 to 1985 as part of the "Krofft Superstars" package. In 1985, it returned to late Saturday mornings on CBS as a replacement for the canceled Pryor's Place - also a Krofft production, followed by another brief return to CBS in the Summer of 1987. It was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel in the 1990s. Reruns of this series were aired on Saturday mornings on Me-TV and are streamed online at any time on their website. It has since become a cult classic and is now available on DVD. Krofft Productions remade the series in 1991, also titled Land of the Lost, and a big budget film adaptation was released in 2009.

Constructed language language whose phonology, grammar, and vocabulary have been consciously devised for human or human-like communication

A constructed language is a language whose phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, instead of having developed naturally, are consciously devised. Constructed languages may also be referred to as artificial, planned or invented languages and in some cases fictional languages. There are many possible reasons to create a constructed language, such as to ease human communication ; to give fiction or an associated constructed setting an added layer of realism; for experimentation in the fields of linguistics, cognitive science, and machine learning; for artistic creation; and for language games.

For the action-sci-fi movie Blade (film), Fromkin created another constructed language for the vampires in the film. [13]

<i>Blade</i> (film) 1998 film by Stephen Norrington

Blade is a 1998 American superhero film directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The film stars Wesley Snipes in the title role with Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson and N'Bushe Wright in supporting roles. In the film, Blade is a Dhampir, a human with vampire strengths but not their weaknesses, who protects humans from vampires.

She became the first woman in the University of California system to be Vice Chancellor of Graduate Programs. She held this position from 1980 to 1989. [14] She was elected President of the Linguistic Society of America in 1985. [15] Fromkin was also chairwoman of the board of governors of the Academy of Aphasia. [16] She was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1996. [17]

Fromkin died at the age of 76 on January 19, 2000 from colon cancer. [18] The Linguistic Society of America established the "Victoria A. Fromkin Prize for Distinguished Service" [19] award in her honor in 2001. This award recognizes individuals who have performed extraordinary service to the discipline and to the Society throughout their career.


Fromkin contributed to the area of linguistics known as speech error s. She created "Fromkin's Speech Error Database", for which data collection is ongoing. [20]

Fromkin recorded nine different types of speech errors. The following are examples of each:

Fromkin theorized that slips of the tongue can occur at many levels including syntactic, phrasal, lexical or semantic, morphological, phonological. She also believed that slips of the tongue could occur as many different process procedures. The different forms were:

Fromkin's research helps support the argument that language processing is not modular. The argument for modularity claims that language is localized, domain-specific, mandatory, fast, and encapsulated. Her research on slips of the tongue has demonstrated that when people make slips of the tongue it usually happens on the same level, indicating that each level has a distinct place in the persons brain. Phonemes switch with phonemes, stems with stems, and morphemes switch with other morphemes.


Related Research Articles

A lexicon, word-hoard, wordbook, or word-stock is the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word "lexicon" derives from the Greek λεξικόν (lexicon), neuter of λεξικός (lexikos) meaning "of or for words."

A malapropism is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance. An example is the statement by baseball player Yogi Berra, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes", rather than "electoral votes". Malapropisms often occur as errors in natural speech and are sometimes the subject of media attention, especially when made by politicians or other prominent individuals. Philosopher Donald Davidson has said that malapropisms show the complex process through which the brain translates thoughts into language.

Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the interrelation between linguistic factors and psychological aspects.

A speech disfluency, also spelled speech dysfluency, is any of various breaks, irregularities, or non-lexical vocables that occurs within the flow of otherwise fluent speech. These include false starts, i.e. words and sentences that are cut off mid-utterance; phrases that are restarted or repeated and repeated syllables; fillers, i.e. grunts or non-lexical utterances such as "huh", "uh", "erm", "um", "well", "so", "like", and "hmm"; and repaired utterances, i.e. instances of speakers correcting their own slips of the tongue or mispronunciations. "Huh" is claimed to be a universal syllable.

Linguistic competence is the system of linguistic knowledge possessed by native speakers of a language. It is distinguished from linguistic performance, which is the way a language system is used in communication. Noam Chomsky introduced this concept in his elaboration of generative grammar, where it has been widely adopted and competence is the only level of language that is studied.

Speech production of a spoken language

Speech is human vocal communication using language. Each language uses phonetic combinations of a limited set of perfectly articulated and individualized vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words, and using those words in their semantic character as words in the lexicon of a language according to the syntactic constraints that govern lexical words' function in a sentence. In speaking, speakers perform many different intentional speech acts, e.g., informing, declaring, asking, persuading, directing, and can use enunciation, intonation, degrees of loudness, tempo, and other non-representational or paralinguistic aspects of vocalization to convey meaning. In their speech speakers also unintentionally communicate many aspects of their social position such as sex, age, place of origin, physical states, psychic states, physico-psychic states, education or experience, and the like.

A speech error, commonly referred to as a slip of the tongue or misspeaking, is a deviation from the apparently intended form of an utterance. They can be subdivided into spontaneously and inadvertently produced speech errors and intentionally produced word-plays or puns. Another distinction can be drawn between production and comprehension errors. Errors in speech production and perception are also called performance errors. Some examples of speech error include sound exchange or sound anticipation errors. In sound exchange errors the order of two individual morphemes is reversed, while in sound anticipation errors a sound from a later syllable replaces one from an earlier syllable. Slips of the tongue are a normal and common occurrence. One study shows that most people can make up to as much as 22 slips of the tongue per day.

In psycholinguistics, language production is the production of spoken or written language. It describes all of the stages between having a concept, and translating that concept into linguistic form. In computational linguistics/natural language processing and artificial intelligence, the term natural language generation (NLG) is more common, and those models may or may not be psychologically motivated.

The term linguistic performance was used by Noam Chomsky in 1960 to describe "the actual use of language in concrete situations". It is used to describe both the production, sometimes called parole, as well as the comprehension of language. Performance is defined in opposition to "competence"; the latter describes the mental knowledge that a speaker or listener has of language.

Sharon Inkelas is a Professor and former Chair of the Linguistics Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Speech production is the process by which thoughts are translated into speech. This includes the selection of words, the organization of relevant grammatical forms, and then the articulation of the resulting sounds by the motor system using the vocal apparatus. Speech production can be spontaneous such as when a person creates the words of a conversation, reactive such as when they name a picture or read aloud a written word, or imitative, such as in speech repetition. Speech production is not the same as language production since language can also be produced manually by signs.

Lise Menn is an American linguist who specializes in psycholinguistics, including the study of language acquisition and aphasia. She is currently Professor Emerita of linguistics and was a fellow of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder in Boulder, Colorado until her retirement in 2007.

"Tar Pit" is the first episode of the second season of the 1975 American television series Land of the Lost. Written by Margaret Armen and directed by Gordon Wiles, it first aired in the United States on September 6, 1975 on NBC.

Verbal language in dreams is the speech—most commonly in the form of a dialogue between the dreamer him/herself and other dream characters—which forms part of the overall dream scenario. Historically, there have been abundant references to verbal language in dreams going back millennia. Early in the twentieth century German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin presented a large corpus of dream speech, almost all from his own dreams and virtually all deviant, without any pretense that this was representative of dream speech in general. The first systematic elicitation of verbal language in dreams from a large subject pool under methodological protocols was presented beginning in the early 1980s, along with detailed analyses as well as theoretical consideration of the implications for various dream models, from the psychoanalytic approach to more recent theories.

When the circumstances of Genie, the primary victim in one of the most severe cases of abuse, neglect and social isolation on record in medical literature, first became known in early November 1970, authorities arranged for her admission to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where doctors determined that at the age of 13 years and 7 months she had not acquired a first language. Hospital staff then began teaching Genie to speak General American English, and she gradually began to learn and use language. Their efforts soon caught the attention of linguists, who saw her as an important way to gain further insight into acquisition of language skills and linguistic development. Starting in late May 1971, UCLA professor Victoria Fromkin headed a team of linguists who began a detailed case study on Genie's progress with learning language. One of Fromkin's graduate students, Susan Curtiss, became especially involved in testing and recording Genie's linguistic development. Linguists' observations of Genie began that month, and in October of that year they began actively testing what principles of language she had acquired and was acquiring. Their studies enabled them to publish several academic works examining theories and hypotheses regarding the proposed critical period during which humans learn to understand and use language.

Ellen Broselow is an experimental linguist specializing in second language acquisition and phonology. She is currently a Professor of Linguistics at Stony Brook University.

Andries W. Coetzee is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan. Since receiving his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts in 2004 he has been a major contributor in research in the fields of Phonetics and Phonology. His career has been spent teaching in South Africa and at the University of Michigan, and being heavily involved with the Linguistics Institute of the Linguistic Society of America. In 2011 he received the first ever Early Career Award from the Linguistic Society of America, and in 2015 was inducted as a fellow of this Society.

Donca Steriade is a professor of Linguistics at MIT. Prior to this, she was a professor of Linguistics at UCLA. She earned her Ph.D. from MIT's Department of Linguistics and Philosophy in 1982, her M.A. from Université Laval in 1976, and her B.A. (licență) in Philology from the University of Bucharest in 1974. She was inducted as LSA Fellow in 2015. She was invited to give the Edward Sapir lecture at the 2009 LSA Linguistic Instituteand she was an instructor at the 2007 LSA Linguistic Institute.

Andrea Berez-Kroeker is a documentary linguist who works on Athabascan and Chimbu-Wahgi languages. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and is the director of the Kaipuleohone archive of endangered languages. She was the president of DELAMAN from 2014-2016 and the senior co-chair of the Committee on Endangered Languages and Their Preservation (CELP) of the Linguistic Society of America. She is an expert on the practices of reproducibility and management of data in the field of linguistics.

Ellen M. Kaisse is an American linguist. She is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Washington (USA), where she has been affiliated since 1976.


  1. "Google Scholar". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  2. "Biographical memoirs, Victoria Fromkin" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences.
  3. A., Fromkin, Victoria (1965-10-01). "WPP, No. 3: Some Phonetic Specifications of Linguistic Units: in Electromyographic Investigation - eScholarship".
  4. "Victoria Fromkin's Homepage". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  5. Fromkin, Victoria (1971). "The Non-anomalous nature of anomalous utterances". Language. 47: 27–52. doi:10.2307/412187.
  6. Speech Errors as Linguistic Evidence. Mouton de Gruyter. 1984. ISBN   978-3-11-088842-3.
  7. "The Linguistic Development of Genie" (PDF).
  8. "NOVA | Transcripts | Secret of the Wild Child | PBS". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  9. Rymer, Russ (1993). Genie: A Scientific Tragedy. New York: HarperPerennial. pp. 23, 46, 56, et al. ISBN   0-06-016910-9.
  10. Hyman, Larry M.; Li, Charles, eds. (1988). "Publications of V. A. Fromkin". Language, Speech and Mind: studies in honour of Victoria A. Fromkin. London: Taylor and Francis. ISBN   0-415-00311-3 . Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  11. Erickson, Hal (1998). Sid and Marty Krofft: A Critical Study of Saturday Morning Children's Television, 1969-1993. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. pp. 114–115, 126–127. ISBN   0-7864-0518-X . Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  12. Susman, Gary. "Land of the Lost's Lost Language". io9. Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  13. Blade (1998) , retrieved 2019-02-01
  14. "Victoria Fromkin's Homepage". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  15. "Presidents | Linguistic Society of America". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  16. Strazny, Philipp (2005). Encyclopedia of Linguistics. FItzroy Dearborn. p. 362. ISBN   1-57958-391-1.
  17., National Academy of Sciences -. "Victoria Fromkin". Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  18. "Victoria Fromkin's Homepage". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  19. "LSA Honors and Awards | Linguistic Society of America". Retrieved 2017-11-04.
  20. "Fromkins Speech Error Database — Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics". Retrieved 2017-11-04.

Further reading