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Research Overview


  Lab Directors: Dr. Maryellen C. MacDonald
Dr. Mark S. Seidenberg
 

Our laboratory conducts research on the acquisition and use of spoken and written language. We study both normal and disordered language using several complementary methodologies: behavioral experiments, neuroimaging, and computational modeling. Here are some of the main foci of current research:

  • 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 minority children; knowledge of different dialects vs. knowledge of different languages;
  • alternative conceptions of working memory and its role in language use;
  • the brain bases of reading and language, including neuroimaging studies and computational modeling;
  • developmental reading and language impairments;
  • cross-linguistic studies of reading and language (mainly Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Serbo-Croatian).

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 formalisms are being used in studies of reading.

Articles can be downloaded from the lab's publications archive.

Seidenberg and MacDonald's most recent publications are here.

For additional information, especially concerning opportunities for graduate or post-doctoral study, contact Professor MacDonald or Professor Seidenberg.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dept of Psychology (WJ Brogden Hall)
1202 West Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53706-1696
Fax: (608) 262-4029

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