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Fields of Study in the Graduate Program

Theoretical Linguistics

The program emphasizes the theoretical linguistic disciplines as the necessary core for any applied and interdisciplinary investigation, recognizing that empirical methods as such cannot advance our understanding of human cognition without being embedded in a clearly defined theoretical model. Research projects in this area include: syntax-semantics interactions in the area of information structure (I. Kucerova), morphology-semantics interactions in the domain of mass versus count nouns (I. Kucerova and A. Moro) and applications of mathematical models, such as vastness theory, in grammatical models (J. Colarusso). Faculty members specializing in theoretical linguistics also participate in applied and empirical projects.

Experimental Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics

This field studies how language is represented and processed, from both a functional and neurobiological perspective, at all levels of linguistic structure from sound to morpheme to word to sentence to discourse. Research in this field aims to establish the cognitive foundations of speech production and perception, reading, and writing, across all ages and in both first and second language. Faculty also investigate impairments in language including developmental disorders and those acquired through strokes or other brain injuries. Current research in the department includes the interplay of working memory capacity and general cognitive resources with lexical retrieval and processing of morphological and syntactic complexity (E. Service), the brain activity correlates of phonological processing (J. Connolly), the use and interplay of acoustic cues (i.e. cue-weighting) in speech production and perception (D. Pape), articulatory and biomechanical constraints in speech perception (D. Pape), the link between perceptual acuity and accuracy of articulation, real-time sentence comprehension in people with agrammatic aphasia (C. Anderson), probabilistic approaches to speech production and visual word comprehension (V. Kuperman), and individual differences in visual processing of morphological and syntactic complexity (V. Kuperman).

Computational Linguistics & Cognition

This strand of research aims at developing computational models of natural language, as well as cognitive models of human communication. Faculty research in natural language processing includes development of information-theoretical models of morphological processing, corpus studies of vocabulary and lexical development, and cognitive models of self-organization in phonetic inventories across languages (V. Kuperman).

Cognitive Sociolinguistics and Clinical Linguistics

The field of cognitive sociolinguistics examines cognitive aspects of language use in diverse social contexts. Using methods from varied theoretical frameworks, it investigates pragmatic and sociocultural phenomena, including bilingual education and childrearing, second language learning (E. Service), first & second language attrition (M. Stroinska), cognitive theory of translation (M. Stroinska) contact languages, pidgins and creoles (A. Moro). In addition, cognitive aspects of the use of language for persuasion, advertising, propaganda and politics are also studied (M. Stroinska). Research in this area also includes psychometric assessments of language competence in bilingual adults with and without language impairments (A. Moro).

Facilities for Research

Students in the program have access to the department’s research labs and other resources. The Language, Memory and Brain Lab includes a 128-channel EEG/ERP system as well as equipment for running behavioural studies of language processing. The Reading Lab includes a desk-mounted eye-tracking system and several large corpora of written and spoken language data. The Phonetics lab consists of a sound-attenuated room with audio equipment and software to record speech, perform speech perception experiments  as well as articulatory speech synthesis. Researchers in the department enjoy productive collaborations with a number of community partners, including the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, a network of practicing Speech-Language Pathologists and other clinicians, the Hamilton chapter of TESL Ontario, and local communities of native speakers of many languages.