In Rovinj, Croatia, August 2015.

Pragmatic structure and processing

One throughline through much of my work is the influence of pragmatic structure on online language comprehension. While it is uncontroversial that hierarchical syntactic representations are built and referenced during incremental interpretation, I am invested in testing whether we can observe similar reflexes for representations entertained in formal pragmatic theories: speech acts, discourse units, and others.

As one arm of this program, I am currently engaged in research on the processing of appositive relative clauses and direct discourse quotation, in collaboration with Amanda Rysling, Pranav Anand, and Adrian Brasoveanu. These constructions, which instantiate separate pragmatic units from surrounding linguistic material, provide interesting testing grounds for hypotheses in which pragmatic representations contribute to the organization of linguistic information during parsing, interpretation, and decision making.

Some of the same questions have come up in the context of my work on the online interpretation of expressive meaning and perspective and a nascent project on the nature and timecourse of causal representations in lexical and pragmatic structure.

Verbal meaning in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec

I am also currently engaged in research on meaning within the verbal complex in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec (SLZ), advised by Maziar Toosarvandani. In particular, this work is focusing on associated motion complexes, which offer a unique opportunity to understand questions related to event structure, causality, and intentionality.

SLZ is a variety of Zapotec spoken in the southeastern Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico and in diaspora communities in California. I work with speakers in the Monterey Bay area. You can read more about the Zapotec people of the Sierra Norte on the Atlas de los Pueblos Indígenas de México.

I am also collaborating with Mykel L. Brinkerhoff and Maya Wax Cavallaro to better understand lexical tone and syntax-prosody in SLZ.

Other topics in psycholinguistics and semantics/pragmatics

I have an ongoing interest in linguistic representation and sensitivity to shifts in perspective, broadly speaking. Recently, I've been collecting experimental data and a corpus of natural converation to investigate the interpretation of predicates of personal taste (tasty, fun). Some of this work suggests that a subset of judgement shift phenomena known as interrogative flip might be tied more generally to patterns of commitment in discourse.

I am also leading collaborative work with Amanda Rysling and Adrian Brasoveanu into the nature and timecourse of task effects on semantic processing. We've found that canonical underspecification effects for polysemy are highly task-dependent. Using results like these alongside computationally-explicit models of domain-general decision-making, we hope to develop a testable theory of the (non-)encapsulation of incremental interpretation. This work is conducted in tandem with a larger multi-institution group investigating the reliability and interpretability of sentence processing data collected using methodologies like self-paced reading, eyetracking while reading, and the Maze task.