It’s summer 2012 in the south of France, but Enrica Rosato isn’t lounging on the beach or hanging out at a sidewalk café. Instead, the rising CMU senior is working on multiple projects. Fluent in French, she came to Aix-en-Provence to immerse herself in the language and continue her academic studies in linguistics, her major.
During her time here, she’s researching, in conjunction with a local professor, how the French language is used and adapted in texting. She’s also an assistant to a CMU PhD student, Ashlie Henery, who is studying how people learn pragmatic parts of a second language, like politeness, which aren’t acquired in a classroom. And she’s taking a course in French media and culture as part of her minor in French. If that’s not enough, she works as an intern in the study-abroad program’s alumni office, too.
The variety of experiences has her thinking about her senior honors thesis, which she plans to start in the fall. Last year, as a teaching assistant, she taught students that English enables an infinite number of adjectives to appear before a noun. The students, mostly native English speakers, disagreed, and an “open, interesting, and engaging” discussion followed. That got her thinking about how different languages control the positions of adjectives in sentences—and how native speakers intuitively know how to place them. Her summer of French immersion helps her realize that this intuition exists in every language.
Back in Pittsburgh that fall, Rosato begins her senior honors thesis, “Adjective Order in English: A Semantic Account with Cross-Linguistic Applications.” A senior thesis is required of all linguistics majors, but an honors thesis, which takes twice as much work, will permit her to graduate with college honors.
At finals time, she briefly panics at the thought of reducing her 50-page semantics thesis to a poster. “In typical CMU manic workaholic mode, I was somehow able to get it done,” she says. “I’m pretty sure I ate saltines and drank Diet Coke for three days straight because that was all we had to eat in my house.”
Afterwards, she presents her work at the Meeting of the Minds, the yearly showcase of undergraduate research projects. She is one of 519 undergraduates, who come from all of the university’s colleges, presenting research. A total of 52 prizes will be awarded to research across all academic disciplines.
Rosato is “surprised and honored” by not one, but three awards: the Dietrich Humanities Prize, the Richard Schoenwald Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Research Prize, and the Yahoo! Undergraduate Research Award.
—Lorelei Laird (DC’01)