Our lab, located in the UW-Madison Department of Psychology, investigates the nature of linguistic knowledge, how it is acquired and used, and its neurodevelopmental bases. What is it that we know when we know a language? Why do languages exhibit certain properties but not others that we could imagine? What makes language different from other intelligent behaviors, in humans and other species? Our main focus is on examining to what extent the properties of language are determined by human perceptual, motor, and learning capacities. The basic theory is that languages are constrained by several performance constraints: children have to be able to learn languages under highly variable environmental conditions; users have to be able to produce communicative utterances with relative fluency, and comprehend such utterances as they are heard. Reading, the comprehension of language represented in visuo-graphical form, introduces additional factors arising from the nature of the written code and differences between vision and audition. We think it is an extremely exciting time to be studying these issues because we are finally beginning to understand how children manage to acquire languages, how children learn to read, the bases of individual differences, and the neural and genetic causes of developmental reading and language disabilities.
Our lab studies the nature of linguistic knowledge, how this knowledge is acquired and used, its brain bases, and its relationship to other aspects of cognition. We address these questions by studying spoken language and reading.