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Research Interests in the Graduate Program

Theoretical Linguistics

A strong emphasis of the program is put on the theoretical linguistic disciplines as the necessary core for any applied and interdisciplinary investigation. The program is built around the recognition that empirical methods as such cannot advance our understanding of human cognition (in a normally developing or impaired form) without being embedded in a clearly defined theoretical model. Foundational courses in this area include Phonology, Morphology, Syntax and Semantics. We also offer a range of courses exploring interface topics, such as explorations of the syntax-semantics interface and the syntax-morphology interface. In addition, students are encouraged to investigate theoretical areas specific to their interests in reading courses offered by the faculty members.

Our faculty specializes in theoretical syntax, morphology, phonology, semantics and their interfaces (Dr. Kucerova, Dr. Moro); mathematical foundations of language structure and evolution, including formal grammars (Dr. Colarusso). Research projects currently run in the program include, for example, syntax-semantics interactions in the area of information structure, morphology-semantics interactions in the domain of mass versus count nouns and applications of mathematical models, such as the vastness theory, in grammatical models. All faculty members specializing in theoretical linguistics participate in applied projects as well.

Experimental: Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics

This program component looks at how language is represented and processed, from both a functional and neurobiological perspective. It cross-cuts all levels of linguistic structure, from sound to morpheme to word to sentence to discourse. The overarching goal of this area of research is to pin down the cognitive foundations of uniquely human language-related faculties: speech production, speech perception, reading and writing. This encompasses the study of these aspects of language in all age groups, from infants to older adults, in both first and second languages. It also looks at cases of both normal and impaired language, the latter including developmental disorders and those acquired through strokes or other brain injuries. The applied version of this field includes research into language therapies.

Research projects currently run in the program’s framework explore a broad range of topics including the interplay of working memory capacity and general cognitive resources with lexical retrieval (Dr. Service), the brain activity correlates of phonological processing (Dr. Connolly), probabilistic approaches to speech production and visual word comprehension (Dr. Kuperman), and individual differences in visual processing of morphological and syntactic complexity (Dr. Kuperman). Several lines of experimental research have direct relation to the study of under-studied or clinical populations, such as dyslexics, young adults with low literacy, or immigrant communities. The Department has at its disposal the neurophysiological, phonetic and eye-tracking laboratories that allow the program’s faculty and graduate students to employ a broad variety of experimental techniques and methods in exploring speech and language processing. Related courses include Cognitive Science; Psycholinguistics; Readings in Neurophysiology of Language; Advanced phonetics; Visual language comprehension; and others. The Department also offers introductory and advanced statistics courses, as well as instruction in general research methods and the range of laboratory techniques that are commonly used in academic, clinical and industrial settings.

Computational Linguistics & Cognition

This strand of research aims at developing computational models of natural language, as well as cognitive models of human communication. The areas of active research in the field of natural language processing that the faculty develops include machine translation (Dr. Kucerova), 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 (Dr. Kuperman). A related area of corpus-linguistic research is engaged with identification and analysis of cross-linguistic lexical, morphological and syntactic co-occurrences in corpora that aim at validating predictions of syntactic and morphological theories. Related courses include Computers and Linguistic Analysis; and Programming for Linguists.

Applied: Cognitive Sociolinguistics and Clinical Linguistics

The field of cognitive sociolinguistics examines cognitive aspects of language varieties and use in diverse social contexts. Using methods from varied theoretical frameworks, it investigates pragmatic and sociocultural phenomena, including bilingual education/ upbringing of children, second language learning, first & second language attrition, contact languages, pidgins and creoles (Dr. Stroinska, Dr. Moro). In addition, cognitive aspects of the use of language for persuasion, advertising, propaganda and politics are also studied. The field of clinical linguistics applies the principles and methods of linguistics theory to communication impairment in children and adults.