Defending in Paris

An eight-year cooperation brings PhD candidate Liya Zalaltdinova to the Sorbonne to present her doctoral thesis. 

Liya Zalaltdinova, who will defend her doctoral thesis at the Centre de Linguistique Théorique next Saturday, poses in the Campus Center last November, where she presented a paper at the International Conference of the American Pragmatics Association.

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 28, 2019) — The School of Education’s association with the famed Sorbonne University’s Center for Theoretical Linguistics (Centre de Linguistique Théorique) escalates next week, when UAlbany PhD candidate Liya Zalaltdinova defends her thesis in Paris.

The occasion is the seventh annual French- American Graduate Symposium, featuring students from Sorbonne and UAlbany. The symposium grew out a relationship that UAlbany Distinguished Professor Istvan Kecskes, a world-renowned scholar in linguistics, began with the doctoral students of the Center for Theoretical Linguistics when he lectured there in 2011.

Zalaltdinova, a former Fulbright Scholarship winner, will defend her thesis, "Modality as a reflection of pragmatic competence,” from 2 to 3 p.m. (Paris time) on the second and final day of the conference, April 6.

“I am extremely honored,” she said. “It is wonderful to conclude my journey through grad school while being hosted in such a prestigious institution. The Sorbonne-SUNY Graduate Student Symposium is an exceptional chance for students to develop scholarly and professionally while interacting with some of the best linguists of the world.”

Established in 1253, Sorbonne University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. “Sorbonne has always been a leading institution in the field of linguistics,” said Kecskes. “Its Center for Theoretical Linguistics is one of the leading research institutions in Europe and the world.

“I do not think it has happened many times that a SUNY student has defended his or her dissertation there.”

Zalaltdinova will not be alone in representing the University at the symposium. Presenting papers as well will be doctoral students Adele L. Touhey, on “Word Order Acquisition Among Chinese as a Foreign Language Learners,” and Hanh Dinh, on “The Use of Indexicals on the Communication Continuum: Understanding Context-Dependency from a Socio-Cognitive Perspective.”

“It is a great honor for our students that they can be on a par with Sorbonne doctoral students,” said Kecskes.

Zalaltdinova, a Russian native, earned a degree in the theory and methodology of teaching foreign languages and cultures from the Linguistic University of Nizhny Novgorod in 2008, then taught at Kazan National Research Technical University. Her Fulbright allowed her to study and teach at Oberlin (Ohio) College. Her PhD candidacy is in Curriculum and Instruction.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Distinguished Professor Kecskes for such a unique opportunity and for his considerate and professional guidance,” she said. “He has always encouraged and supported me in my continuous professional development. He has been an outstanding teacher and a thoughtful mentor.”

Zalaltdinova will present before her dissertation committee, comprised of Kecskes, Elly Ifantidou, professor of English linguistics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), and Monika-Kirner Ludwig, assistant professor at the University of Innsbruck (Austria).

She expressed gratitude for their support, and also to the multi-disciplinary instruction she received at the University. “Inspired by my five productive years at UAlbany and by my many encounters with outstanding professors — James Collins (Anthropology), Alan Zemel (Communication), Scott South (Sociology) and Adam Gordon (Anthropology), just to mention a few — I plan to continue my career as a scholar and an educator.”

Since 2012, there have been six symposia, three in Paris, three in Albany, hosting three students from Sorbonne and three from UAlbany. The cooperation grew to where the University hosted two French doctoral students for a semester through Fulbright and Sorbonne grants in 2017 and 2018.

Beginning in the 2019-20 academic year, a UAlbany doctoral student will spend a semester at the Sorbonne.

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