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Matt Wagers


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

I completed my Ph.D. in Linguistics at UMD (2008), supervised by Colin Phillips (dissertation). Before that, I did my A.B. in Molecular Biology at Princeton University (2003), with Certificates in Neuroscience and in Linguistics.


    Fall 2023 LING50 Introduction to Linguistics
    Office hours: TBD.

... past teaching

What's Happening

Congratulations to Matthew Kogan and Elif Ulusoy for successfully defending their M.A. theses!
Matthew Kogan. Maintaining Syntactic Positions and Thematic Roles in Memory. M.A. Thesis, June 2023.
Elifnur Ulusoy. Connectivity and case effects in agreement attraction: The case of Turkish. M.A. Thesis, June 2023.
Presentations of our research at the 36th Annual Conference on Human Sentence Processing: HSP2023, March 9-11, 2023, University of Pittsburgh
Predictive parsing as a source for resumptive pronoun preference in Hebrew with first author Mandy Cartner (TAU), Ivy Sichel, & Maziar Toosarvandani.
The role of prediction in retrieval interference: The case of reflexive attraction, with first author Maayan Keshev (UMass) & Brian Dillon
Turkish relative clauses and the role of syntactic connectivity in agreement attraction, with first author Elifnur Ulusoy (UCSC)

Recent Papers



  • Processing reflexive pronouns when they don’t announce themselves with Sandra Chung and Manuel F. Borja. Glossa Psycholinguistics 1(1). doi:10.5070/G601174.
    Data archive: doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/BWCZT.
  • Extraction from English RCs and Cross-Linguistic Similarities in the Environments That Facilitate Extraction with first author Jake Vincent & Ivy Sichel. Languages, 7(2), 117. Open Access, doi:10.3390/languages7020117.
  • Memory for linguistic features and the focus of attention: evidence from the dynamics of agreement inside DP with Brian McElree. Language, Cognition & Neuroscience. DOI 10.1080/23273798.2022.2057559.
  • Evidence for a universal parsing principle in Santiago Laxopa Zapotec with Kelsey Sasaki, Steven Foley, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Fe Silva-Robles, & Maziar Toosarvandani. Unpublished manuscript. Data archive: doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/2WGD8.





... 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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Congratulations to Vishal Arvindam
One of two inaugural recipients of the Gibson/Federenko Young Scholar Awards, for "outstanding scientific work as a talk at the Conference on Human Sentence Processing"! His presentation, from HSP2022, was entitled Anti-local anaphors in Telugu are subject to local antecedent interference.
View a video recording of the talk.
Alignment, Reanalysis and Re-encoding, talk delivered at X-PPL 2022, University of Zurich, 12-13 September, 2022; & Cornell Linguistics, 3 November, 2022
Congrats to 2022 graduates Dr. Nick Van Handel and Ashley Ippolito (B.A.) ⁂
We (virtually) hosted the 35th Annual Conference on Human Sentence Processing: March 24-26, 2022!
Congrats to 2021 graduates Drs. Jake Vincent, Tom Roberts, & Kelsey Sasaki; and Anelia Kudin, M.A.! ⁂
New in Winter 2021 Continuing in Spring 2022: r/lab
an occasional lab meeting on resumptive pronouns, nominal features and their interaction
co-convened with Ivy Sichel & Maziar Toosarvandani
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. doi:10.1007/s11049-020-09493-9.
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).
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  • Psycholinguistics (LING257): W20, W21, S22
  • Adv. Psycholinguistics (LING258)
  • Proseminar: Experimental Linguistics (LING280): S21
  • Research Seminar in Psycholinguistics (LING279)