Staff research projects

Ongoing research projects at LingLab include:

 ‘Does Language Have Groove? Sensorimotor Synchronisation for the Study of Linguistic Rhythm’

The study asks ‘is language rhythmic?’ For decades, linguists have been controversially debating this seemingly simple but profoundly important question that connects language with other aspects of human cognition. The present project is an original study of language rhythm from a cross-linguistic, typological perspective. The project’s innovative methodological approach capitalises on the recent advances made by music psychology and movement sciences in the understanding of rhythm through studying perception-action coupling in sensorimotor synchronisation tasks.

‘Speaking or singing? Unveiling individual variation in the perception of the “speech-to-song illusion”’

Can speech ever sound like song? Seemingly impossible, the “Speech-to-Song illusion” is a striking example of a perceptual effect where a spoken phrase repeated several times shifts to being heard as sung without any change to the speech sounds. Our previous work revealed that sound acoustics play a crucial role in S2S; but so far, the cognitive processes underpinning the transformation remain unclear. The new proposal examines the role of the individual perceiver as not all listeners are equally likely to experience the effect. We aim to investigate healthy native and non-native populations with  normally distributed characteristics such as musical training, language skills and working memory capacity, in order to unveil if, and how, these  characteristics may predict listeners’ performance in S2S. The project will illuminate how the link between language and music is mediated by cognitive abilities and previous experience of the listener, and produce academic contributions as well as a database available for other researchers and a web resource accessible to the general public.

‘Establishing common ground: the interaction of linguistic knowledge, world knowledge and shared experience in the online resolution of context-dependent meaning’

This study investigates context-dependent meaning – in particular, how listeners infer comparison sets for interpreting context-dependent expressions. Eye-tracking
experiments investigate the relative contributions of linguistic knowledge, general knowledge about the world, and speaker-specific information, including assessing the effects of shared linguistic experience on communicative effectiveness. The project hopes to explain how we initially estimate common ground representations when communicating with new interlocutors, faced with potentially widely varying bodies of experience, and how we adapt these representations with continued exposure.

‘An experimental investigation of prominence and rhythm in Korean’

Korean is a typologically unusual language as it has neither stress nor pitch accent – phenomena that are said to be essential for the creation of rhythm. This project aims to uncover the basic rhythmic unit in Korean, and to help us understand how rhythm works in a language that has proved so far impossible to classify.

‘The effect of recent L1 exposure on Spanish speakers under L1 attrition’

This research is informed by the hypothesis that native language (L1) attrition affects the ability to process interface structures but not knowledge representations, and investigates the effects of recent L1 re-exposure in Spanish-English bilinguals with L1 Spanish by using offline judgements and online eye-tracking measures.

‘Complex Grammar in Autism’

This collaborative project focuses on the acquisition of control structures across the Autistic Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger. Research into areas of complex grammar in atypical populations is demonstrably absent and a key question, therefore, is what kind of developmental profile does the acquisition of control, as one example of complex grammar, reveal in this population. Participants are being drawn from a number of specialist institutions in London and the South East.

‘Meaning in Context’

This project investigates the class of gradable adjectives, whose interpretations require the inference of contextually-salient comparison classes. Building on previous experimental work on the resolution of context-dependence in online language comprehension, the project asks what features of the context of use must be encoded in mental representations to support the interpretation of gradable adjectives, and explores the possibility that two subclasses of gradable adjectives (relative and absolute) are sensitive to semantic and pragmatic aspects of the context, respectively.

‘Ellipsis resolution in discourse’

This project investigates the resolution of verb phrase ellipsis in discourse, focusing on the cumulative effects of syntactic mismatch, discourse coherence relations, lexical bias, and information structure on interpretability and acceptability judgments.

‘Methodological challenges of vowel analyses in sociophonetic real-time studies’

Acoustic analyses of speech recordings made with different equipment and digitisation procedures may contain technical artifacts, and thus obscure the patterns of sound change that researchers are interested in. The aim of this project is to ascertain that acoustic differences observed in real-time corpora are genuine.