Our approach

Our lab’s long-term research objective is to understand the structure of meaning, and how it is “packaged” or made visible through language within the constraints of mind/brain functioning. This objective brings together a set of domains that includes linguistics, psychology, and cognitive neurology. In particular, on the linguistic side, our research focuses on understanding the structure of the mental lexicon, from the perspective of the interface between morphological, syntactic, and meaning structures. On the cognitive science/cognitive neurology side, the lab’s research seeks to understand the interface between real-time sentence processing (comprehension), memory systems, and structural and functional connectivity (the latter through collaboration with Todd Constable and Cheryl Lacadie, Yale MRRC). 

Currently we are pursuing research on lexical and functional aspect (English and Spanish), temporal modifiers (for-adverbials), lexical and pragmatic metonymy (English and Mandarin), and predicate argument structure licensing (light verb constructions), and copular constructions (Spanish and English).

One important feature of our research, which is specific to our lab’s approach, is that in our understanding of meaning we seek to transcend traditional boundaries among theoretical approaches. Accordingly, we ground our research on the insights of conceptual semantics, model-theoretic semantics, pragmatics (formal and non-formal approaches), dynamic semantics, and cognitive and developmental psychology. 

This approach underpins a novel research path that seeks to link a synchronic understanding of meaning structure and meaning computation with fundamental principles of meaning change (historical linguistics). This multi-domain project builds on linguistic, informational theoretic, and brain connectivity perspectives. The work, which grew out of long-standing collaborations among colleagues, started formally in the Fall of 2012 with the support of an NSF-INSPIRE grant to our group, a group that includes as PIs Ashwini Deo (Yale Linguistics), Mokshay Madiman (U-Del. Mathematics & Statistics), and Todd Constable (Yale MRRC). 

This year we host what we hope is the first of a series of workshops on meaning variation, change, and development. Inspired by the approach we take in the lab, this workshop seeks to congregate researchers around the world to discuss the connections across these three perspectives and the implications of those connections for our understanding of the structure of linguistic meaning and its cognitive grounding.