I am currently working in the Language and Cognition Lab led by Dr. Bever and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab led by Dr. Vicky Tzuyin Lai.
My project examines the interaction between context, plausibility, meaning and linguistic structure during sentence processing using behavioral and neurological methods. Specifically, I am working on how contextual information influences the reading of ambiguous multi-word phrases like mechanical pencil eraser (“eraser from a mechanical pencil” or “pencil eraser that is mechanical”). These phrases differ on whether they include animate nouns (e.g., mechanical pencil eraser vs clever lizard tail). They also contrast on whether they have a preferred interpretation. With clever lizard tail for example, “tail of a clever lizard” is preferred over “lizard tail that is clever”. I am testing whether the reading times and EEG signals differ in response to these different ambiguous phrases. Examining these stimuli will help answer:
Using language as a model of how online ambiguity processing proceeds, this research also has implications outside of language-related research, for ambiguity exists in areas such as vision.
This project has been funded by the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute and Graduate and Professional Student Council at the University of Arizona.
Work on Hiaki
Hiaki (Uto-Aztecan: Mexico) contains full form pronouns robustly, but the language lacks accusative first and second person clitic forms. Why does the language lack these clitic forms despite language-internal evidence that they should be well-formed? I show that the absence of these clitics constitute a paradigmatic gap. I conclude that an adequate model of Hiaki grammar must predict the absence of 1st and 2nd person accusative clitics, incorporating proposals that hypothesize structural distinctions between full and clitic forms (Cardinaletti and Starke 1994), 1st and 2nd persons and 3rd person (D’Alessandro and Roberts 2010), and nominative and accusative contexts (Nichols 2001). I hypothesize that a mechanism blocks the valuing of clitic 1st and 2nd person features in accusative contexts. Additionally, the location of the gap within the pronominal system suggests that gaps are not peripheral and should be explained by linguistic theory. I have presented this work at the Linguistics Society of America Meeting 2016 and the 7th Conference on the Indigenous Languages of Latin America with funding from the U. of Arizona Linguistics Department and the Graduate and Professional Student Council. Materials from the presentations are included below.
Research in First Language Acquisition investigates three broad questions: What do children know about language? When does this knowledge emerge? How is children’s knowledge of language different from adults’ knowledge of language? This study adds to previous research in FLA by investigating the interaction between logic and meaning in child language. This study examines preschool children’s comprehension of the logical relation between a compound and its head noun in comparison to adult’s logico-semantic interpretation of compounds. We found that preschool children responded differently from adults during the experimental task, but their commentary suggests that their knowledge of compounds is adult-like. This work was published in the Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics (included below).