Donna Jo Napoli (born February 28, 1948) is an American writer of children's and young-adult fiction, as well as a prominent linguist.
She has worked in syntax, phonetics, phonology, morphology, historical and comparative linguistics, Romance studies, structure of Japanese, structure of American Sign Language, poetics, writing for ESL students, and mathematical and linguistic analysis of folk dance. She has taught linguistics at Smith College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and is currently a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.
Born the youngest of four children in Miami, February 28, 1948, Napoli received both her B.A. (mathematics, 1970) and PhD (Romance Languages – the Linguistics Plan A, 1973) from Harvard, before a postdoctoral fellowship in linguistics at M.I.T. Napoli has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Italy
Her children's books, listed below, have been translated into Chinese, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, and will be in Thai and Polish. Many of her children's books are re-tellings of fairy tales, including The Magic Circle, Crazy Jack, Spinners, Zel, Breath, Bound, Beast, and The Wager for older children, and The Prince of the Pond, Ugly, and Mogo the Third Warthog for younger children. Other children's stories are historical fiction based in Italy, including Daughter of Venice, For the Love of Venice, and The Smile.
Her publications in linguistics include Syntactic argumentation (with Emily Rando). (Washington, DC: Georgetown Univ. Press, 1979), Syntax: Theory and Problems (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), Linguistics: Theory and Problems (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), Humour in sign languages: The linguistic underpinnings (with Rachel Sutton-Spence) (Dublin: Trinity Press, 2009), with dozens of articles in the scholarly journals. She is a former member of the editorial board of the premiere journal Language. Napoli has won numerous awards for her work, including the Golden Kite Award given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (for Stones in Water, and honor book Breath), the Sydney Taylor Award given by the Association of Jewish Libraries (for Stones in Water, and, honor book, The King of Mulberry Street and the Parents' Choice Gold Award (for Alligator Bayou and Silver awards for North and The King of Mulberry Street).