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Last Updated: March 2020

Misha Becker

Department of Linguistics
Professor, Department Chair

Dr. Becker studies how children discover the syntactic structure of their native language, and how they learn word meanings that denote emotions and states. She is also interested in the revitalization of indigenous endangered languages.

She is originally from Baltimore, but Chapel Hill has been her home since 2002 when she came to UNC as an assistant professor. She studies human language because she is fascinated by this system that is rooted in their biology and their culture at the same time. Humans create language because their DNA provides the cognitive structures needed to acquire it, yet it only develops when they are also part of a community of other humans. She thinks that’s cool.

Jennifer L. Smith

Department of Linguistics
Associate Professor

Before coming to Carolina, Dr. Smith majored in linguistics and Asian Studies at Cornell, studied at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, earned a PhD in linguistics at UMass Amherst, and taught linguistics at UC Santa Cruz.

Linguistics is the study of the structure and use of human language, and of the implications of this structure and use for our understanding of human cognition. Within linguistics, her research focus is phonology, the study of sound-structure systems in language: What speech sounds do languages use? How do they combine into words? How do they change in context? And, howand whydo the answers to questions like these form patterns and trends across languages?