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.
Maryellen C. MacDonald
Mark S. Seidenberg
Our research employs several complementary methodologies: behavioral experiments, “big data” analyses of large language corpora, neuroimaging, and computational modeling. Some of the main foci of our current research include:
- Language comprehension and production, particularly the way in which comprehension processes are shaped by constraints arising from production;
- Reading acquisition and skilled reading, emphasizing the use of computational models that act as the interface between brain and behavior;
- Impact of language background on school achievement and learning to read among African American and other speakers of non-mainstream dialects of English; how second dialect learning compares to second language learning;
- Alternative conceptions of working memory and its role in language use;
- Brain bases of reading and language;
- Developmental reading and language impairments;
- Cross-linguistic studies of reading and language (mainly Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese).
All of these research projects are in the service of a more general goal: understanding the nature of linguistic knowledge (principally phonology, morphology, lexical semantics, syntax), how this knowledge is acquired, and its relationship to other aspects of cognition. A central issue is whether language is the expression of innate domain-specific forms of knowledge (e.g., grammar) or more general capacities to perceive, think and learn. We think that recent breakthroughs in the understanding of statistical learning mechanisms, and the development of computational models that represent and efficiently exploit statistical constraints, are among the most important developments in the modern study of language. We are investigating the properties of such systems, and their application to many classic phenomena concerning language structure and use. The same approach is being used in studies of reading and its brain bases.