Published: Nov. 4, 2022

With Fulbright support, CU Boulder linguist developed new approach to semantics of natural languages with international colleagues gathered in Italy

Zygmunt Frajzyngier, a professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Colorado Boulder, has won a Fulbright Specialist award, with which he recently delivered a series of lectures at the Università degli Studi L'Orientale in Naples, Italy.

Recipients of Fulbright Specialist awards are selected based on academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in their field, and their potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions in the United States and abroad.

In Naples, Frajzyngier delivered lectures on the semantic structures of West African languages. He is an expert on Chadic and Afroasiatic linguistics and descriptive grammars and dictionaries of Chadic languages. He has also been drawing implications from the descriptive work for linguistic theory.

Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Zygmunt Frajzyngier, a professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Colorado Boulder, has won a Fulbright Specialist award.

While there, Frajzyngier further developed “a new approach to the semantics of natural languages that I have addressed in my recent books and papers,” some of which were co-authored by his former students Erin Shay and Marielle Butters and some by international colleagues.

“I was also able to exchange ideas with colleagues from different countries and from different disciplines,” Frajzyngier said. “I was happy to note that some of those ideas have already enriched at least one new publication of mine. The years of support from CU do bring positive results!”

Frajzyngier’s stay in Naples coincided, by design, with the fourth Symposium on West African Languages.

“The symposium was a true feast for a linguist, because colleagues from France, Ivory Coast, Germany, United States, Poland, Nigeria, Italy, Cameroon, Portugal, Brazil and Austria, including both established scholars and PhD students, presented studies of hitherto-undescribed languages and studies of hitherto-unanalyzed issues,” Frajzyngier said.

Università degli Studi L’Orientale is the only university in Italy that is completely dedicated to the study of all social sciences and humanities, disciplines that are related to people and countries in Asia and in Africa, he observed.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.

Specialists, who represent a wide range of professional and academic disciplines, are competitively selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster based on their knowledge, skill sets and ability to make a significant contribution to projects overseas.

Frajzyngier is one of 400 U.S. citizens who shared their expertise abroad this year. His award is the 32nd to be won by a CU Boulder faculty member since 2002.

Fajzyngier earned his PhD from the University of Warsaw in 1968 and joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1970. He retired in 2021 after serving more than five decades on the faculty. He expressed gratitude for the 2022 Fulbright award:

“For me, nothing can replace the first-person experiences of living and working in another country,” he said. “It is also an excellent way to escape, at least for some time, the noise and preoccupations of daily life.”