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Donna Jo Napoli Edit Profile

educator , linguist , writer

Donna Jo Napoli is an American prominent linguist, educator and writer of children's and young adult fiction, based outside Philadelphia.


Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948 in Miami, Florida, United States. She is the daughter of Vincent Robert and Helen Gloria (Grandinetti) Napoli.


Napoli received her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1970 and her doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1973, both from Harvard University, then did a postdoctoral year in Linguistics at MIT.


Druring her teaching career, Napoli taught linguistics at Smith College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Swarthmore College. It was at UM that she earned tenure (in 1981) and became a full professor (in 1984).

She has also held visiting positions at the University of Newcastle (England), the University of Queensland (Australia), the University of Geneva (Switzerland), Capital Normal University of Beijing (China), and the University of Venice at Ca' Foscari, as well as lectured at the University of Sydney (Australia), Macquarie University (Australia), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), and the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), and the St. Petersburg State University (Russia). She was a Leverhulm Visiting Professor at the University of Newcastle (England) in 2010. She was a Long Room Hub Fellow at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) in 2012, in both her capacity as a linguist and her capacity as a fiction writer. She was a Fulbright Scholar at Siena School for Liberal Arts (Italy) in 2015.

Now Napoli lives and works as a full-time writer outside Philadelphia.


  • In the area of linguistics Napoli has authored five books (one of which is translated into Korean), co-authored six (one of which is in Italian), edited one, and co-edited five, ranging from theoretical linguistics to practical matters in language structure and use, including matters of interest to d/Deaf people. She has held grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Fulbright Program.

    In the area of poetry, she has contributed poems to seven anthologies by linguists and been coeditor of five. She has written several essays about children's literature and writing for children.

    Napoli has also written book reviews about children's fiction.



Napoli is a Fellow of the Linguistics Society of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild and Authors League of America.


Napoli married Barry Ray Furrow on December 29, 1968. The couple have 5 children: Elena, Michael Enzo, Nicholas Umberto, Eva and Robert Emilio.

Vincent Robert - contractor

Helen Gloria (Grandinetti) Napoli

Elena Napoli

Michael Enzo Napoli

Nicholas Umberto Napoli

Eva Napoli

Robert Emilio Napoli

Barry Ray Furrow - educator
Barry Ray Furrow  - Husband of Donna Napoli