The Department of Linguistics is thrilled to announce that graduate student Danielle Burgess has been awarded a 2019 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The three-year fellowship will support Danielle’s research plan, which focuses on “Exploring the Emergence of Typological Patterns through Artificial-Language Learning.”

“These are highly competitive awards,” commented Linguistics Department Chair Robin Queen. “This is a true testament to the strength of Danielle's project and her research profile.”

Language Change Research

Broadly, Danielle’s research examines how biases in language learning and processing affect language change, especially in language contact scenarios. She explained this rationale in her personal statement:

“As my interest in language change developed, I realized that understanding how language learning proceeds is critical to understanding why languages change in the ways that they do.”

Now in her second year of the Linguistics PhD program, Danielle has refined her research interests to focus on language formation of pidgin and creole languages. Under the direction of her primary academic advisor Marylse Baptista, Danielle is preparing to run an Artificial-Language Learning study to investigate a purported bias toward learning pre-verbal negation, over post-verbal negation.

She explains in her research plan that current evidence for such a bias is based on errors in both first- and second-language acquisition, as well as the typological prevalence of preverbal negation, especially in creole and pidgin languages. Through a series of Artificial-Language Learning experiments, Danielle aims to ascertain the nature, scope, and source of such a bias. Ultimately, she seeks to determine how learning biases shape language change within various linguistic ecologies, including those that give rise to pidgins and creoles.

Language Diversity Outreach

Danielle’s research focus on pidgin and creole development is connected to her commitment to celebrating and increasing awareness of language diversity. In her personal statement, she highlights goals to discourage practices of linguistic discrimination and create a more inclusive environment in the classroom, on campus, and in different community settings.

See the complete GRFP Award Offers and Honorable Mentions List.