Skip to Main Content
Chico State

Linguistics Professor Emeritus Recognized for Internationally Recognized Scholarship

Graham Thurgood

The Chico State Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association (ERFSA) is pleased to announce the 2024 Hall of Honors class. Eight renowned faculty and staff members will be inducted into the Hall of Honor on Friday, May 31, 2024, during a ceremony and luncheon. Buy tickets.

Linguistics Professor Emeritus Graham Thurgood is a prodigious scholar with an international reputation who also elevated the campus with his teaching and collegial spirit.

Thurgood was hired as an assistant professor by Chico State in 1999, as was his wife, Ela, a much-respected scholar in her own right. Thurgood had previously been a full professor at Fresno State, having spent 24 years at that campus. Tracy Butts, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, said Thurgood had no qualms about going through the retention, tenure, and promotion process a second time, and received early promotion in 2001 and attained full professor status in 2004.

Two of Thurgood’s colleagues, linguistics professors Saundra Wright and Paul Olejarczuk called his scholarship record “unparalleled.” A leading scholar of Sino-Tibetan languages, Thurgood was co-founder and editor of Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, an influential journal for work on Southeastern Asian languages. He has authored and co-authored four books and co-edited four volumes on Sino-Tibetan languages, with additional scholarly publications and presentations numbering “in the hundreds.”

Thurgood has been the recipient of two Fulbright Scholar awards and three National Science Foundation grants. He co-founded the Berkeley Linguistics Society, which has published proceedings of its influential annual meeting since 1975. In recognition of his extensive contributions to the field, Thurgood was inducted as a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America in 2021—one of the highest professional honors for a linguist. Although he retired in 2010, Thurgood has remained active as a linguistics scholar, with his most recent book published in 2014, articles in 2017, and an article currently in press.

On campus, Thurgood served as coordinator of the Linguistics Program and was instrumental in establishing the BA in Linguistics and certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). He taught a wide range of courses from “Pedagogical Grammar” to “Advanced Studies in Historical Linguistics.” For the 2007–08 academic year, he was awarded the University’s Outstanding Professor honor.

Within the Department of English, Thurgood is known as the consummate colleague and friend. He and Ela generously support the campus Joy of Giving program, attend department gatherings and celebrations, and help out when someone is in need. Butts said she greatly values Thurgood’s counsel.

“I can always count on him to talk me down, encourage me to see things from a different perspective, or even help me to gird my loins and prepare to do battle with yet another challenge,” she said.