Xianghua Wu receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 11, 2013

In order to complete her PhD, Dr. Xianghua Wu embodied SFU's motto of "engaging the world. She received a Graduate International Research Travel Award to do her research with subjects in China and Thailand, and returned with valuable results that have implications in linguistics, perceptual psychology and language teaching.

Dr. Wu studied how speakers of different tone (Mandarin, Thai) and non-tone (English) languages acquire tones in a new language, a subject which is not well-understood. She was particularly interested in finding out how speakers of one of those languages would perceive tones as a function of experience with one of the others. Her travels to China and Thailand helped her recruit 150 test subjects for her work, which was completed at SFU's Language and Brain Lab.

The Graduate Advisor for Linguistics, Dr. Maite Taboada, says, "Among her observations was a finding of greater left-hemisphere processing, typical of native Mandarin speakers, by Thai speakers with considerable Mandarin experence than by native English and less experienced Thai speakers. This outcome helps elucidate the factors that constrain learning of a new tonal system. Taken together, her studies have yielded important new knowledge that informs influential theoretical models of speech perception."

Dr. Wu received a number of awards in her graduate career, including a SSHRC doctoral fellowship, several Graduate Fellowships and the President's PhD Research Stipend. She also has a stellar publication record, including three journal papers, seven conference proceedings, and a record 13 conferences in some of the most important conferences in her field.

She has been a visiting scholar in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis, and is about to take up a continuing position as Lecturer in Chinese Language at the University of California Berkeley, where she was selected from among 260 applicants.

On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Xianghua Wu on her outstanding achievements which are being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal as one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

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