Rawan is pictured here in the neighboring country of Bahrain, which is about two hours away from her hometown of Alhasa.

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, linguistics PhD candidate Rawan Bonais has always been fascinated by languages. She chose to major in English translation as an undergraduate student at King Saud University. But it wasn’t until Rawan took an introductory course in linguistics that she discovered her true passion.  

“I was very curious to learn more about the field of linguistics,” says Rawan, “That’s when I knew I would be pursuing a higher degree.”

That pursuit led Rawan to Northeastern Illinois University, where she completed a master’s degree in linguistics in 2015. As part of her studies, Rawan enjoyed a visit to the University of Michigan when she attended the Linguistics Institute, hosted in 2013 by the U-M Linguistics Department. During the month-long program, Rawan gained first-hand experience exploring the university’s culturally diverse campus, attending classes taught by faculty members, and interacting with graduate students. With this in mind, says Rawan, she decided that U-M was the optimal place to earn her PhD in linguistics. 

Rawan is currently working on her dissertation project under the direction of faculty advisors Marlyse Baptista and Acrisio Pires. Rawan’s dissertation project investigates language transfer as a possible cognitive mechanism underlying the development of a recently evolved Arabic-based pidgin, Gulf Pidgin Arabic (GPA). GPA emerged some eighty years ago upon the oil boom in the Arab States (e.g. Saudi Arabia), bordering the Persian Gulf. The new language developed out of the social contact between Gulf locals and (South) Asian Immigrant workers who come from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. 

Envisioning her future after graduation, Rawan says that she would like to work in a culturally and linguistically diverse environment—one in which she can use the knowledge and skill sets she has acquired during her graduate studies at U-M.

Photo on homepage: Rawan served as a peer advisor at U-M’s International Center during the 2016 Summer Orientation to assist incoming international students and scholars.