College of Humanities Newsletter

Fall 2012, Volume 7, Issue 1

In This Issue

Departments and Programs

  • Asian American Studies
  • Chicana/o Studies
  • English
  • Gender & Women’s Studies
  • Liberal Studies & Humanities Interdisciplinary Program
  • Modern & Classical Languages & Literatures
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Office of Interdisciplinary Studies:
    • American Indian Studies
    • Central American Studies
    • Jewish Studies
    • Linguistics
    • Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
    • Queer Studies
    • Russian Studies
    • Sustainability Studies

Message from Humanities Dean Elizabeth A. Say

Dean Elizabeth A. Say
Elizabeth A. Say, Ph.D. Alum 1981

As we begin the 2012-13 Academic Year, the CSU is facing some significant challenges brought about by California's ongoing budget crisis.  Additionally, Chancellor Reed is retiring after 14 years at the helm of the California State University.  Despite challenges and transitions, the College of Humanities continues to thrive.  This newsletter will introduce you to one of our talented faculty members, some of our exceptional graduate students, and remind us all of how community support can and does impact the lives of all those in the college who persevere in difficult times. 

Linguist Fred Field is a great example of the multi-talented faculty who teach within the College of Humanities.  Not only a gifted teacher and outstanding scholar, Fred recently shared with me the story of his musical talents and I asked him to share it with all of you as well.  We are honored this year to recognize three of our students who were awarded the prestigious Casanova Pre-Doctoral scholarship.  Though they come from different departments and have different interests, they share a commitment to serving diverse populations in their future endeavors.  Finally, we feature a story about a former faculty member, Mitchell Marcus, and the legacy endowment established by his family.  In remembering the work of her father, his daughter reaches out to future generations of CSUN students.

What do Aretha Franklin and Dr. Fredric Field have in common?

Dr. Fredric Field
Photo courtesy of
Fred Field

Dr. Fredric Field is well regarded as a professor and scholar. A member of the Department of English and a popular instructor in the Linguistics/TESL program, Field has also published widely, including his most recently released book, Bilingualism in the USA, which examines "many of the linguistic, social, political and educational issues found in an increasingly multilingual nation and world."

What many may not know about Field is that this summer he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. He was honored—in a 2012 class of inductees that included legends like Aretha Franklin and Ricky Skaggs—as a founding member and original songwriter for the group Love Song, which in the 1970s infused gospel music with rock and pop elements that were at the time revolutionary for the genre. Field said the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in August in Nashville, was "quite moving. It was great to hear the comments of my peers as they recounted the impact that the band Love Song had on them."

The linguistics professor says he can't remember a time in his life when he didn't play some kind of musical instrument. He took his first violin lessons at age 4, and by age 7 was playing in community symphony orchestras in the greater Los Angeles area, where he was born and raised. Playing and performing always felt natural and easy to him, he says.

Adding bass and guitar to his repertoire of instruments, Field joined his first rock band and began recording his own material in the '60s, in his senior year of high school. Over the years, various bands in which Field has played have shared concert bills with acts as diverse as the Byrds, the Temptations, Three Dog Night, Alice Cooper, the Grateful Dead, the Staple Singers and Jerry Lee Lewis. Field has recorded several albums, including the solo project Fred Field and Friends, two musical concept albums based on the Book of Acts, and studio and live albums recorded in Germany.

When asked how he transitioned from life as a professional musician to academia, Field says that he became interested in how Europeans learned languages while touring Europe. Later, while living in Israel, Field observed that almost as many languages are spoken there as in the United States. "[In Israel], you used every language you knew every day," Field says. At Tel Aviv University he took several linguistics classes, one of which was taught by the influential linguist Robert Lees. "[Lees] changed my life," Field says. "He explained how linguistics offered the clearest window into the human mind, how it opened doors to knowledge of our humanity. I was hooked."

Field went on to earn his Ph.D. in linguistics at University of Southern California in 1998. In 2000 he came to CSUN, an opportunity that proved particularly meaningful as his mother suffered a stroke in his first semester of teaching and he was grateful to have a position that enabled him to continue living in his native city of Downey. He continues to live there with his wife and three children.

Field has published three books, including the aforementioned as well as Linguistic Borrowing in Bilingual Contexts and Key Concepts in Bilingualism. Cambridge University Press will publish his next book, which Field reports is "a comparative look at the spread of English and Spanish in the U.S., how they've taken separate paths towards even greater contact."

As for music, he continues to play with the Fred Field Band occasionally, "mostly for fun," and remains as versatile with musical genres as he is with languages. The band played gospel and blues at a CSUN Day of Diversity event, and, as Field reported in an e-mail exchange regarding this story, "I've got a gig tonight playing klezmer music in Irvine—on fiddle."

The College of Humanities thanks Field for sharing his passion for linguistics with his colleagues and students every day, and congratulates him on his induction into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.