Danielle Burgess

Graduate Student Danielle Burgess discovered Linguistics in her time at Cornell University, where she earned a B.A. in Linguistics. She became interested in Linguistics by reading English literature, specifically texts written in Old English and Middle English. Curiosity was what brought her to question the how and why behind language change and the effects of language contact on language change.

Danielle came to U-M aiming to understand language contact and language change using different lenses, methods, and types of evidence. Choosing to come to U-M Linguistics was not only because of the interdisciplinary training and research being done here but also being “impressed by the warm, collegial atmosphere of the department at [her] visit”. 

In her time at U-M, Danielle has made good on her word to pay it forward contributing to the collegial, supportive atmosphere of the department and the college. She not only has received a 3-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship award and the LSA Summer Institute Fellowship, but she has also done a lot of professional development on her teaching practices as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI).  Her efforts to teach in ways that recognize and affirm students' diverse linguistic repertoires along with her experience as a Graduate Student Mentor and Instructional Consultant led her to being awarded a 2023 Rackham Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.

Besides all of Danielle’s outstanding achievements, she takes her teaching practice of recognizing diversity in language seriously and dives into it in her research. “The languages of the world are incredibly diverse in their structure. But in that diversity, there are a lot of regularities and common patterns. Recurrent language patterns are the result of a complex interaction of factors, including descent from a common language, the historical survival and colonization of different language users, and cognitive pressures which shape languages to be easier to learn or use.” 

Danielle, advised by Marlyse Baptista and Savithry Namboodiripad, investigates in her dissertation  “the role and scope of cognitive pressures on language change, and how these pressures affect individual behavior and language outcomes in various linguistic communities and situations”.

Outside of Linguistics, Danielle continues to achieve other goals she sets for herself. Last year she met a personal goal of listening to 200 new albums, which is no small feat. She also enjoys Olympic-style weightlifting and doting on her cat.