Presidential Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania


Language Contact and Cognition

I am a contact linguist and morphosyntactician specialized in Pidgin and Creole languages (and their source languages), and in theories of language emergence, language contact and change.

I have a particular interest in cognition and theoretical models of language contact & language emergence.  With collaborators, I use experimental methods (involving artificial language learning) investigating how languages and their speakers converge, diverge and innovate in multilingual settings.  I also use fieldwork data and tools from Generative Syntax to study the grammatical properties of Pidgins and Creoles.

My current research investigates the cognitive processes involved in contact situations and focuses on the role of convergence in L2 acquisition (Baptista, Gelman & Beck, 2016), bilingualism and creole genesis and development (Baptista, 2006; 2020).  

I direct the Language Contact and Cognition Lab in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania (my lab was formerly known as the Cognition, Convergence and Language Emergence (CCLE) Research Group when it was hosted in the Linguistics Department at the University of Michigan).  I am also faculty in MindCore at the University of Pennsylvania.


Research interests

  • Cognitive processes in language contact
  • Theories of language emergence and language contact
  • Morphosyntax of pidgins and creoles
  • Bilingualism/Multilingualism
  • Research methodologies: theoretical models of language contact; experimental methods using artificial language learning; corpus linguistics; generative syntax


  • PhD, Linguistics, Harvard University, 1997
  • MA, Linguistics, Harvard University, 1995
  • MA, ESL, University of Massachusetts/Boston, 1990
  • MA, Anglophone Literatures and Civilizations, Université de Bordeaux III, France, 1987
  • Licence [French degree equivalent to Bachelor’s], Anglophone Literatures and Civilizations, Université de Bordeaux III, 1986
  • Classes Préparatoires/DEUG, Lycée Camille Jullian/Université de Bordeaux III, 1984