Matt Wagers

language comprehension
experimental syntax

mwagers (at) ucsc (dot) edu
231 Stevenson College
(831) 459-1550
Office hours (W17)
Weds, 3-5pm; by app't
s/lab (student-run meeting)
supplemental materials
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In press
Arnett, N. & Wagers, M.W.. Subject encodings and retrieval interference. Journal of Memory and Language, 93, 22-54.
Wagers, M.W. Sources of variability in linguistic memory systems. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. doi:10.1017/S1366728916000997. (Commentary on target article by Ian Cunnings.)
Wagers, M.W. & E. Pendleton. Structuring expectation: licensing animacy in relative clause comprehension. In Kyeong-Min Kim et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 33.
Borja, M.F., Chung, S., Wagers, M. Constituent order and parser control processes in Chamorro. AFLA 21: The Proceedings of the 21st Meeting of Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association.
Wagers, M.W., Borja, M.F., Chung, S. (2015). The real-time comprehension of wh-dependencies in a Wh-Agreement language. Language, 91, 109-144. doi:10.1353/lan.2015.0001.
Clemens, L.E., Coon, J., Mateo Pedro, P., Morgan, A.M., Polinsky, M., Tandet, G., Wagers, M. (2015). Ergativity and the complexity of extraction: a view from Mayan. Natural Language and Linguistc Theory, 33, 417-467. doi:10.1007/s11049-014-9260-x.
Wagers, M.W., Phillips, C. (2014). Going the distance: memory and control processes in active dependency construction. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 1274-1304. doi:10.1080/17470218.2013.858363.
Dillon, B., Chow, W.Y., Wagers, M., Guo, T., Liu, F., Phillips, C. (2014). The structure-sensitivity of memory access: evidence from Mandarin Chinese. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1025. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01025
Xiang, M., Dillon, B., Wagers, M., Liu, F., Guo, T. (2013). Processing covert dependencies: an SAT study on Mandarin Wh-in-situ questions. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 23, 207-232. doi:10.1007/s10831-013-9115-1.
Sprouse, J., Wagers, M., & Phillips, C. (2012). A test of the relation between working memory constraints and syntactic island effects. Language, 88(1), 82-123.
Sprouse, J., Wagers, M., & Phillips. C. (2012). Working-memory capacity and island effects: a reminder of the issues and the facts. Language, 88, 401-407.
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 o the 21st Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference. 176-196.
Phillips, C., Wagers, M.W., Lau, E.F. (2011). Grammatical illusions and selective fallibility in real-time language comprehension. In J. Runner (ed.), Experiments at the Interfaces, Syntax & Semantics, vol. 37, pp. 153-186. Bingley: UK: Emerald Publications.
Wagers, M., Lau, E., Phillips, C. (2009). Agreement attraction in comprehension: representations and processes. Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 206-237.
Wagers, M., & Phillips, C. (2009). Multiple dependencies and the role of the grammar in real-time comprehension. Journal of Linguistics, 45, 395-433.

Book chapters

Wagers, M.W.. In press. Syntax, Psychology Of. In H. Miller (Ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Wagers, M. (2014). Syntax in Forward and in Reverse: Form, Memory and Language Processing.. In A. Carnie, D. Siddiqi, & Y. Sato (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Syntax. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Wagers, M. (2013). Memory mechanisms for wh-dependency formation and their implications for islandhood. In J. Sprouse & N. Hornstein (Eds.) Experimental Syntax and Island Effects. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Wagers, M. & Brian McElree. (2013). Working memory and language processing: theory, data and directions for future research. In C. Boeckx & K. Grohmann (Eds.) The Cambridge Handbook for Biolinguistics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Posters and talk slides (selected)

Chamorro Psycholinguistics Project Project web site
All research joint work with Manuel F. Borja & Sandra Chung.
Filler-gap order and online licensing of grammatical relations: evidence from Chamorro. 2015. Talk given at the LSA Annual Meeting, Portland, OR.
Grammatical person, pronouns and the processing asymmetry in relative clauses
with Scarlett Clothier-Goldschmidt. Poster given at the 2015 CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Los Angeles, CA.
Relative clause processing in Chamorro: overlapping pressures in an agreement-rich language. 2014. Poster presented at the CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
The Chamorro language across islands and generations. 2014. Presentation delivered to a series of community groups on Rota (Ufisinan Mayot), Tinian (Public Library) and Saipan (American Memorial Park) in September 2014. Documents change and constancy in the comprehension of complex sentences and word structure across generations and islands of the Marianas.
Structuring expectation. Invited address, WCCFL 33, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver: March 27-29, 2015.
Anti-local contexts increase the overall speed of dependency completion.
Talk slides from Twenty-third Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, New York, NY, March 19-21, 2010.
Hierarchical structure and retrieval mechanisms in agreement attraction:
evidence from probe recognition in French Jabberwocky.
2015. With Julie Franck. Poster presented at the 28th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Los Angeles, CA, March 19-21.
The consequences of number agreement on number interpretation. 2009. With Ellen Lau* & Colin Phillips. Poster given at the 22nd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Davis, CA, March 26-28.
Agreement and the subject of confusion. 2008. With Ellen Lau*, Clare Stroud & Colin Phillips. Talk presented at the 21st Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Chapel Hill, NC, March 13-15.
Gap acceptability predicts resumption rate in English. 2013. With Adam Morgan*. 19th Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing Conference, Aix-Marseille Université, Marseilles, September 2-4, 2014.
The impact of resolved filler-gap dependencies on later dependency completion. 2007. With Roshni Caputo-Nimbark, Paul Hines, Rebecca Larson, Jessica Levy, Andrea Longini, Hana Quon & Claude Smith. Poster presented at the 20th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, La Jolla, CA, March 29-31.
Working memory
Case and position versus clausal information in subject retrieval. 2014. With Nate Arnett*. 20th Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing Conference, Edinburgh, September 3-6, 2014.
Do reflexives always find a grammatical antecedent for themselves? 2012.With Joseph King* and Caroline Andrews. 25th Annual CUNY Conference for Human Sentence Processing, New York, March 14-16.
Implicature calculation and the pragmatics of experiments. 2011. With Pranav Anand and Caroline Andrews. 4th Experimental Pragmatics (XPRAG) meeting, Barcelona, June 2-4, 2011.


As an undergraduate I was fortunate to work on two very interesting projects on the anatomy of the brain. The first, while I was an RA in the lab of Charles Gross, concerned the life-cycle and spatial distribution of newly-born neurons in the adult neocortex. The principal investigator of the project was Elizabeth Gould. It was an exciting time to be involved in this kind of research since the existence and extent of adult neurogenesis was still controversial and not well understood.
Gould, E., Vail, N., Wagers, M., Gross, C.G., Adult-generated hippocampal and neocortical neurons in macaques have a transient existence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 98, 10910-7.
The second project concerned white matter scaling: how the myelination fraction and axon size distribution changes with increasing brain size. Part of this paper was developed in my A.B. thesis, Optimization of Neocortical White Matter under Constraints of Time and Space, supervised Sam Wang. This part of the research showed that as brain size increases, the center of the size distribution of myelinated axons does not shift, but its positive skew does: the fraction of very large axons grows. This has the consequence that the minimum cross-brain conduction time is essentially preserved across brain sizes.
Wang, S.S., Shultz, J.R., Burish, M.J., Harrison, K.H., Hof, P.R., Towns, L.C., Wagers, M.W., Wyatt, K.D. (2008). Functional trade-offs in white matter axonal scaling. Journal of Neuroscience, 28, 4047-56.
Although my core interests shifted to linguistics and cognitive science, my erstwhile/inchoate life as a neuroscientist had an impacts on my linguistic interests - particular, concerning how compositional representations are biologically encoded.