By Andries W. Coetzee
Mar 10, 2013
Although we have always known that we have first-rate graduate students in our Department, we have recently received external confirmation of this when two of our current graduate students received competitive and prestigious awards.
Tridha Chatterjee, a fourth year graduate student in our Department, was awarded the Barbour Scholarship by the Rackham School of Graduate Study. This scholarship, which covers tuition and a stiped for one academic year, was established in 1914 by the bequest of Levi L. Barbour "for women of the highest academic and professional caliber from the area formerly known as the Orient ... to study modern science, medicine, mathematics and other academic disciplines and professions critical to the development of their native lands". Tridha embodies all of these requirements. She is (obviously!) of the "highest academic and professional caliber". Her research is also critical to the understanding of modern Indian society. Here is how Tridha describes her dissertation research: "For my dissertation, I am investigating morphosyntactic contact effects of Bengali on English and English on Bengali. To investigate English effects on Bengali, I am looking at old Bengali plays written in the 1850s and comparing them to monolingual Bengali speech spoken now and trying to determine in what kind of morphosyntactic ways Bengali has changed and to what extend we can attribute those changes to contact with English. This is a project that I am working on in collaboration with Marlyse. To investigate Bengali effects on English, I am looking at bilingual Bengali-English conversations and determining the nature of the English spoken in this community (bilingual Bengali-English speakers of West Bengal, India) and how these English constructions are different with regard to other 'standard' dialects of English outside India such as American English. I identified certain properties in this variety of English (such as differences in the use of determiners, prepositions, tenses etc.) that we would not expect to occur in other varieties outside India. I am investigating the corresponding Bengali properties to identify if those changes are as a result of contact with Bengali or an issue of imperfect second language acquisition. And I am working on this project in collaboration with Acrisio."
Harim Kwon, also a fourth year student in our PhD program, was recently awarded the equally prestigious and competitive Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship, that includes tuition and a stipend for three terms, is awarded to students "working on dissertations that are unusually creative, ambitious and risk-taking". Harim's dissertation certainly fits the the bill. In her dissertation, she is exploring the intricate interplay between the cognitive representations of two different languages in the minds of bilinguals. More specifically, Harim is looking at how exposure to one language (either L1 or L2) influences the production patterns in the other language (either L2 or L1). This gets to the fundamental question of whether the two languages of a bilingual speaker are cognitively connected, or whether they are stored and processed separately from each other.
Congratulations to both Tridha and Harim!