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Dr. Adrienne Washington recently became the first Black woman at the University of Pittsburgh to earn a Ph.D. in linguistics. When Dr. Washington read that the University offered studies in the Gullah language, she decided to study it and determine how language is used among Black people all around the world.

Washington has had a stellar education, earning an undergraduate in Spanish from Hampton University in 2007. Before enrolling in Pitt’s master’s program in linguistics, she noticed that the Gullah language was part of the curriculum. Washington’s mother’s family hails from the South Carolina coastal low country area, where Gullah was spoken, and it was all the motivation she needed to sign on.

After earning her master’s in linguistics in 2010, Washington pressed on to earn her doctorate degree. Along the way, she studied the languages of the Yoruba people and discovered that the West African language is also spoken in remote parts of Brazil. The intersection of language in Black communities across the globe propelled Washington to help bridge the understanding and communication between them.

Washington intends to broaden her study and is currently applying for jobs in academia.

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