Faculty Research Projects

Department of Linguistics faculty members are engaged in a wide variety of fascinating research projects that are yielding important new insights about human interactions.

Jack Hawkins: English Typology and History

Seeking to shed new light on the extensive grammatical and lexical changes that English has undergone during the past 1,000 years, John Hawkins is developing a new approach to the typology of Modern English, drawing on insights from both parsing and language typology. Typology is a branch of linguistics that focuses on the study, comparison and classification of languages, and on analysis of the structural similarities between languages. Typology is somewhat analogous to genetic classification in biology.

Robert Bayley: Language Variation in Diverse Communities

Robert Bayley follows in the linguistic tradition established by William Labov. He is currently working on an edited volume, Variation in Second and Heritage Languages: Crosslinguistic Perspectives, and is collaborating with Kristen Kennedy Terry on another book on social network analysis for second language acquisition research.

Georgia Zellou: The seeds and spread of sound change.

This project investigates coarticulation: the contextual variation in the pronunciation of consonants and vowels when they occur next to other sounds. This project addresses the question of what aspects of this articulatory overlap are universal across speakers and what aspects can vary across speakers, by examining how speakers of American English vary in their coarticulation patterns producing the same set of words. Since coarticulation provides advance information about upcoming sounds in the word, it can be used predictively by listeners to comprehend speech more efficiently.

Kenji Sagae: Processing Language

Like all linguists, computational linguists are interested in human language. But the methods they use to study natural language set them apart. They study language in the context of computation, which often involves programming machines to do some sort of Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Santiago Barreda: Sounds, Statistics, and Software

Linguistics is a broad, methodologically diverse discipline. A language field worker doing descriptive work on an undocumented language may spend most of the day transcribing that language in phonetic symbols. Meanwhile, a psycholinguist may be gathering subjects for an experiment involving subjects reading sentences while their brains are scanned. Down the hall, a syntactician may be drawing complex trees and developing a rigorous formalism to account for some complex word movement operations.