Matt Wagers

language comprehension
experimental syntax

mwagers (at) ucsc (dot) edu
231 Stevenson College
(831) 459-1550
Office hours (S’17)
Weds, 2-3:50pm; by app't
s/lab (student-run meeting)
supplemental materials
Spring 2017
LING257 Psycholinguistics and Linguistic Theory
course archive
research varia
Chamorro Psycholinguistics na Project
latest c.v.

☁︎ About

My research and instruction asks questions about the mental data structures of syntactic representation and the interface between language structure and memory. In particular, I am interested in the problem of how compositional representations are segmented in memory. And how linguistic feature systems control access to those memories via prediction and retrieval.

My collaborators and I are invested in the contribution smaller or lesser-studied languages ought to make to psycholinguistic theories.

For the past several years, I've been investigating language processing in Chamorro, an Austronesian language spoken (primarily) in the Mariana Islands. The questions revolve around how syntax-morphology interactions impact the comprehender's expectations and how different sources of information guide early interpretation. Chamorro is also a verb-initial language, and we know very little about how such languages are processed. My collaborators are Sandra Chung (UCSC) and Manuel F. Borja (Inetnon Åmot yan Kutturan Natibu, CNMI). Our research was supported by the NSF (2013-2016; Award #1251429). You can read about some of work at our project web site: Chamorro Psycholinguistics na Project.

Students in my lab have also been approaching problems in language processing from the perspective of underinvestigated languages. Jed Pizarro-Guevara has been working on the predictive value of Voice in interpreting A-bar dependencies in Tagalog; and more recently, 'undoing' phonological masking in complex word formation in Cebuano. And Steven Foley has been investigating the informativity of case in a split-ergative language, using the relative clause system of Georgian.


2009- Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz
2009 Post-doc, New York University, Department of Psychology
advisor: Brian McElree
2008 Ph.D., Linguistics, Maryland
Dissertation: The structure of memory meets memory for structure in linguistic cognition, advisor: Colin Phillips
2003 A.B. (Honors), Molecular biology – Neuroscience cert., Princeton
Thesis: "Optimization of Neocortical White Matter under Constraints of Time and Space", advisor: Sam Wang
1999 Diploma, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

lab members and collaborators
Jed Sam Pizarro Guevara, Steven Foley, Margaret Kroll, Anissa Zaitsu
Melanie Esver, Research assistant
grad Nate Arnett (PhD '16), Karl Devries (PhD '16), Chelsea Miller (MA '16), Scarlett Clothier-Goldschmidt (MA '15), 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), Jake Vincent (BA '15; Chamorro Psycholinguistics Fellow)
collaborators past and present
Pranav Anand, Manny F. Borja, Sandy Chung, Brian Dillon,
Donka Farkas, Julie Franck, Ellen Lau, Brian McElree, Colin Phillips, Maria Polinsky, Jon Sprouse, Ming Xiang
UCL Seminars (May 10-12, 2017; slides, handouts, papers)

Linguistics at Santa Cruz 2017 Graduate Conference (March 18)

Recent research

Grammatical licensing and relative clause parsing in a flexible word-order language.
with Sandy Chung & Manuel F. Borja. March 2017 manuscript.
Subject encodings and retrieval interference. with Nathan Arnett. 2017.
Journal of Memory and Language, 93, 22-54.
English Resumptive Pronouns are More Common where Gaps are Less Acceptable.
with Adam Morgan (UCSD). In press.
Persons, Pronouns, and Processing Asymmetries with Scarlett Clothier-Goldschmidt. 2017.
In Jason Ostrove, Ruth Kramer, & Joseph Sabbagh (Eds.) Asking the Right Questions: Essays in Honor of Sandra Chung. UC Santa Cruz.
The role of voice morphology in processing Tagalog A-bar dependencies.
with Jed Sam Pizarro-Guevara. 2017.
In Nomoto, A., Miyauchi, T., & Shiohara, A., Eds., AFLA 23: The Proceedings of the 23rd Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association, pp. 228-242. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics.
Winter/Spring Presentations 2017
With Sandra Chung & Manuel F. Borja. Competition among Pronouns in Chamorro Grammar and Sentence Processing. AFLA24 (April, 2017; Seattle). USC Linguistics Colloquium (Los Angeles; February, 2017).
With Brian Dillon & Caroline Andrews (UMass). A new argument for distinct, co-active parses during language comprehension. CUNY2017 (Cambridge, MA) (talk).
With Steven Foley. Subject gaps are still easiest: relative clause processing and Georgian split ergativity. CUNY2017 (Cambridge, MA) (poster).
Jed Sam Pizarro-Guevara. Limited prediction in sentence comprehension of a verb-first language: the case of Tagalog. AAAS2017 Annual Meeting (Boston, MA) (poster). Related: CUNY2016 poster

Other Projects

✈︎ Frontiers in Psychology special topic
Encoding and navigating linguistic representations in memory.
Co-edited with Claudia Felser & Colin Phillips.
The largest Special Topic issue on Frontiers in Psychology, with 48 articles! Editorial
Building digital resources for research on under-resourced languages
Corpus-based and behavioral approaches.
Tutorial jointly presented with Kie Zuraw at AIMM3 (October, 2015)
chamorro psycholinguistics project with Sandra Chung & Manuel F. Borja.
The real-time comprehension of wh-dependencies in a Wh-Agreement language
March, 2015. Language, 91, 109-144. doi:10.1353/lan.2015.0001 (PDF)
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.
Young speakers in the bottleneck: knowledge and use of morphology in Chamorro,
Workshop on Sentence Processing in Multilingual and Other Less Commonly Studied Populations, Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, Potsdam, Germany, 4-5 August, 2016.

Related: 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
Limited reactivation in noun phrase ellipsis with Chelsea Ann Miller.
March 2016. Poster presented at CUNY2016 (Gainesville, FL).
Licensing Animacy in Relative Clause Comprehension, with Emily Pendleton.
2016. In Kyeong-min Kim, et al., eds., Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (Simon Fraser University, March 27-29, 2015). pp. 29-46. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.
Related: Structuring Expectation. Slides from invited talk at WCCFL33, Mar 27-29, 2015, Simon Fraser U., Vancouver
The structure-sensitivity of memory access: evidence from Mandarin Chinese
with Brian Dillon, Wing Yee Chow, Taomei Guo, Fengqin Liu & Colin Phillips.
August 2014. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences.
Memory mechanisms for wh-dependency formation and their implications for islandhood
February 2013. 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.
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)