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News Story

Anna De Fina (G’99) Knighted by the Italian Republic

Anna De Fina (G’99), a renowned linguist and writer on the Italian diaspora, was knighted in the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, or the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. 

“I was very surprised and at the same time elated by this honor,” said De Fina, a professor in the Department of Italian Studies. “I was surprised because I did not expect it and elated because it was such an important recognition of my work.” 

The Order of Merit, which is bestowed by decree of the President of the Italian Republic, recognizes contributions in the fields of literature, the economy, public service and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities. De Fina received the commendation of Cavaliere della Reppubblica Italiana, or Knight of the Italian Republic, in a ceremony at the Italian Embassy this fall. 

“This award means a great deal to me because this recognition signifies that the Italian government is paying attention to the efforts that are made by Italians abroad to disseminate our culture,” said De Fina. “This gives me hope that Italian institutions will continue to support the kind of work that we do.”

A woman in business attire stands as a man at a glass podium speaks. Behind the man there are three flags: The American Flag, the Italian Flag, and the European Union Flag.

Anna De Fina (G’99) receives the Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit was established in 1951 by President Luigi Einuadi but follows in the lineage of Italian orders of merit dating back to the 14th century. 

“My academic work has contributed to highlighting the role of language in the every-day life and in the culture of populations of Italian origins abroad,” said De Fina. 

De Fina, who received her Ph.D. from Georgetown, has taught in the College of Arts & Sciences since 2004. She has published a dozen books, curated six special issues of academic journals, and authored more than 80 articles in peer-reviewed journals and chapters in edited volumes. 

“We are so proud of Professor De Fina’s accomplishments and are delighted that they have been recognized in this way by the Italian government,” said Vice Dean Andrew Sobanet upon learning of the recent honor.  

A polyglot, De Fina began learning French, English, Latin and Greek at a young age. In addition to her native Italian, this early education in languages sparked an interest in linguistic structure and functionality. De Fina’s research focuses on linguistic variations and the evolution of language among the Italian diaspora, the construction and negotiation of cultural identities, the study of migrant communities and the analysis of narratives. 

“I am interested in the permanence and strength of ethnic identity among Italian Americans even in the face of the massive loss of the Italian language among them and their efforts to maintain some symbolic elements of that language,” said De Fina. “I appreciate the contributions that Italian Americans have made to many fields of social life in the US and the very unique intermingling of Italian and American traditions in their food, arts and culture in general.” 

De Fina is one of four linguists at Georgetown who are among the world’s top 2% most-cited researchers in the field according to recently updated statistics compiled by Stanford University. Her next book, tentatively titled Analyzing Online Narratives will explore online stories published on social media platforms, how those contrast with face-to-face narratives and the constraints and freedoms of digital storytelling environments. 

-by Hayden Frye (C’17)