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Matt Wagers


I am a linguist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The focus of my research and instruction is language processing, especially the coordination of syntactic information in memory. I teach courses at UCSC on psycholinguistics, experimental methods & design, language and memory, language and the mind, and syntax.

I completed my Ph.D. in Linguistics at UMD (2008), supervised by Colin Phillips. I did an A.B. in Molecular Biology at Princeton University (2003).


Summer (Session II, Jul 27 - Aug 28): I am teaching LING50, Introduction to Linguistics, virtually. Office hours (PDT): Mondays, 3pm; Fridays, 11am. Via Zoom.

Fall: On Sabbatical

... past teaching

What's Happening

⁂ Congrats to 2020 Ph.D. graduates Drs. Steven Foley (Princeton), Margaret Kroll (Amazon), & Jed Sam Pizarro-Guevara (UMass)! ⁂
New NSF Award "Animacy and resumption at the border of cognition and grammar" (BCS 2019804)
Project comparing the syntax and processing of resumptive pronouns in Zapotec & Hebrew. Press release.
Collaboration with UCSC linguists Maziar Toosarvandani (PI) and Ivy Sichel (Co-PI)
August 2020 - January 2024
New Paper (Sep 2020): On the universality of intrusive resumption: evidence from Chamorro and Palauan
Joint with Sandra Chung. Forthcoming in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.
New Poster (Aug 2020): Which sentences do speakers favor? ROC analysis of d-linking in filler-gap integration.
Joint with Brian Dillon, presented at CEMS2020 (Aug 17-19, 2020).




... Past events ↯↯↯

Lab members





  • Adam Milton Morgan. Bridging the gap between acceptability and production of English resumptive pronouns. M.A. Thesis, June, 2013.

Research Areas

A major question our lab focuses on is how complex compositional objects, like sentences, are bound in working memory. We try to make progress on this question by studying how linguistic features, and feature systems, can act as "traffic signals" to access recent memories via prediction and retrieval. Some representative publications:

  • Arnett, N., & Wagers, M. (). Subject encodings and retrieval interference. Journal of Memory and Language, 93, 22-54. 10.1016/j.jml.2016.07.005 Post-print (OSF)
  • Dillon, B., Andrews, C., Rotello, C. M., & Wagers, M. (). A new argument for co-active parses during language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45, 1271-1286. Preprint here: https://osf.io/qdmfh/. Repository for materials, data and analysis code.

My collaborators and I have focused on developing sentence processing research in smaller or lesser-studied languages. For the past several years, I've been investigating language processing in Chamorro, an Austronesian language of the Mariana Islands, together with Sandra Chung (UCSC) and Manuel F. Borja (Inetnun Åmut yan Kutturan Natibu, CNMI). Our research was supported by the NSF (2013-2016).

Other lab members have been approaching problems in language processing from the perspective of underinvestigated languages. Jed Pizarro-Guevara has been working on Tagalog language processing, focused on the predictive value of Voice in interpreting A-bar dependencies in Tagalog.

  • Pizarro-Guevara, J.S., Wagers, M. (2020). The predictive value of Tagalog voice morphology in filler-gap dependency formation. Front Psychol, 11, 517. 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00517. Open Access.

Since 2018 Maziar Toosarvandani and I have convened z/lab, on sentence processing Zapotec. This research, expanded to include comparative studies with Hebrew ,is now supported by the NSF (2020-2024; BCS), with Co-PI Ivy Sichel.

  • Pronouns over gaps in parsing? Relative clause parsing in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec. 93rd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, New York, NY (Jan 6-9, 2019). With Steven Foley, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Kelsey Sasaki, Fe Silva Robles, & Maziar Toosarvandani. Slides.
  • Animate intruders. 33rd Annual Meeting of the CUNY Human Sentence Processing Conference, Amherst, MA (Mar 19-21, 2020). Slides
We're broadly interested in finding creative, useful new practices in the design and analysis of language experiments.
Dillon, B., & Wagers, M. In press. Acceptability with the tools of signal detection theory. In G. Goodall (Ed.) Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Syntax. Preprint.
Using signal-detection theoretic tools, like ROC curve analysis, to draw conclusions about gradience in acceptability judgments. Preprint provides code and tutorials.
Morgan, A., & Wagers, M. (2018). English Resumptive Pronouns are More Common where Gaps are Less Acceptable. Linguistic Inquiry, 49, 861-876. Postprint: https://osf.io/nj2mq/.
Comparing acceptability and production measures of English resumptive pronouns.
Kroll, M., & Wagers, M. Is working memory sensitive to discourse status? Experimental evidence from responsive appositives. Poster presented at XPrag 2017, Cologne, Germany, Jun 21-23, 2017. Poster: https://osf.io/95hjq/.
Manipulating acceptability with Questions-under-Discussion (QUDs).
Anand, P., Andrews, C., Farkas, D., & Wagers, M. (2011). The exclusive interpretation of plural nominals in quantificational environments. In N. Ashton, A. Chereches, & D. Lutz (Eds.) Proceedings of. the 21st Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference. 176-196. Open Access.
Correlating measures of plural ex-/inclusitivity.
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top ⤒
  • Intro. to Linguistics (LING50)
  • Language & Cognition (LING155)
  • Language & Mind (LING80D)
  • Psycholinguistics (LING157)
  • Advanced Psycholinguistics (LING158)
  • Syntactic Structures (LING111): W20
  • Typology (LING124): <W20 syll, W20 schd>
  • Psycholinguistics (LING257)
  • Adv. Psycholinguistics (LING258)
  • Proseminar: Experimental Linguistics (LING280)
  • Research Seminar in Psycholinguistics (LING279)