Matt Wagers
associate professor | department of linguistics | uc santa cruz
psycholinguistics, language comprehension, memory, experimental syntax
mwagers (at) ucsc (dot) edu
231 Stevenson College
(831) 459-1550
? Office hours: Th 12-1pm; 1pm-3pm Data clinic
lab meeting mailing list | fb


Fall '14
LING157 Undergraduate psycholinguistics
syllabus - eCommons
LING280 Experimental methods in linguistics
syllabus - eCommons
Co-offered with LING229 (Graduate syntax seminar)
Special topic: Islands and gradience
Winter '14
LING80D Language and Mind
Spring '15
LING158 Advanced psycholinguistics (undergrad)
LING257 Graduate psycholinguistics

course archive


Google Scholar Page

downloadable papers

Chamorro Psycholinguistics na Project

Plural Semantics @ UCSC

mendeley (reference sharing)

- verbatim memory at a public lecture
- Obama's resumptive pronoun: verbatim memory on Twitter

almost work

Speech errors, unusual syntax

not work

☄ Recent research
chamorro psycholinguistics project with Sandra Chung & Manuel F. Borja.
The real-time comprehension of wh-dependencies in a Wh-Agreement language
To appear, Language. (April 2014 version)
Constituent order and parser control processes in Chamorro.
August 2014. Proceedings of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association.
- AAAS 2014. Language processing in Chamorro: lessons from a language of the Pacific.
- CUNY 2014. Relative clause processing in Chamorro: overlapping pressures in an agreement-rich language.
The Chamorro language across islands and generations.
September 2014. Slides from a series of public presentations in the CNMI, on what's (not) changing in the comprehension of relative clauses across different generations of speakers.
long-distance dependencies, memory and prediction
The structure-sensitivity of memory access: evidence from Mandarin Chinese
with Brian Dillon, Wing Yee Chow, Taomei Guo (corresponding), Fengqin Liu, & Colin Phillips.
August 2014. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences.
Memory mechanisms for wh-dependency formation and their implications for islandhood
February 2014. In Sprouse, J. & Hornstein, N. Experimental Syntax and Island Effects. Cambridge UP.
Going the distance: memory and control processes in active dependency formation
with Colin Phillips.
August 2013. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Gap acceptability predicts resumption rate in English
with Adam Morgan (lead); August 2013; Presented at AMLaP 2013
Processing covert dependencies: an SAT study on Mandarin Wh-in-situ questions
with Ming Xiang (lead), Brian Dillon, Fengqin Liu & Taomei Guo, March 2013.
Journal of East Asian Linguistics.
Islands don't reflect WM constraints
A test of the relation between working memory capacity and syntactic island effects
with Jon Sprouse & Colin Phillips, Language (March 2012 issue)
And Working memory capacity and island effects: a reminder of the issues and the facts
(A reply to commentary generated by our first article; first comment, second comment)


My research and instruction asks questions about the mental data structures of syntactic representation and the interface between language structure and memory. For example:
  • how are linguistic representations segmented in memory?
  • what are the mechanisms for the prediction and retrieval of syntactic information?
  • how do linguistic feature systems control access to constituent encodings?
  • how do grammatical principles and extra-linguistic constraints interact?

An important current research project is incremental comprehension in Chamorro. Chamorro is a verb-initial Austronesian language with an intricately interacting system of movement, case, and agreement. My collaborators and I are investigating how syntax-morphology interactions impact the comprehender's expectations and how different sources of expectation guide early interpretation. This forms part of an effort to increase the contribution to psycholinguistic theory made by 'small' languages. We conduct our research in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. With: Sandra Chung (UCSC) and Manuel F. Borja (Inetnon Åmot yan Kutturan Natibu, CNMI; [photo]). Our research is supported by the NSF (Award #1251429).

I've also worked on appropriate methods for eliciting judgments in semantics/pragmatics experiments (joint work with Pranav Anand, & Donka Farkas).


2009: Post-doc, New York University, advisor: Brian McElree
2008: Ph.D., Linguistics, Maryland, advisor: Colin Phillips
2003: A.B. (Honors), Molecular biology (Neuroscience), Princeton, advisor: Sam Wang
1999: Diploma, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics


current lab members
Nate Arnett (PhD), Karl Devries (PhD)
Scarlett Clothier-Goldschmidt (MA), Chelsea Miller (MA)
Jake Vincent (BA; Chamorro Psycholinguistics Fellow)
[grad] Adam Morgan (MA '13), Matt Tucker (PhD '13), Boris Harizanov (PhD '14)
[undergrad] Sylvia Soule, Shawna Mattison, Sarah Napoli, Emily Pendleton,
Joseph King (NYU Abu Dhabi), Caroline Andrews (UMass), Shayne Sloggett (UMass)
Pranav Anand, Manny F. Borja, Sandy Chung, Brian Dillon,
Donka Farkas, Julie Franck, Ellen Lau, Brian McElree, Colin Phillips,
Masha Polinsky, Jon Sprouse, Ming Xiang