Potential PhD Projects

Language production: putting thoughts into words

Speaking is a complex, albeit highly practiced activity: it begins with the generation of a thought (i.e., an “idea” that the speaker wants to communicate) and then proceeds through various stages of linguistic encoding.  How do speakers manage to coordinate the various linguistic processes quickly enough to produce fluent utterances? How are these processes shaped by learning? Potential topics for future projects include understanding the production of utterances of varying complexity and in different contexts, production of utterances under time pressure (as in natural conversation), as well as tracking short-term and long-term adaptations in production.

Language is also inherently social: people learn to speak by interacting with other speakers. Thus, what we say and how we say it often depends on our own linguistic experience but also on our beliefs about our conversational partners’ linguistic experience. Potential topics for future projects include adaptation to fluent and disfluent speakers, individual differences in adaptation, and generalization of learning across speakers.

Memory for language: remembering the words of others

People normally remember what is said to them but not necessarily how this information was conveyed. Interestingly, misremembering sentence wording can also result in poorer memory for the content of a sentence. Such patterns of memory errors, however, vary across individuals and can have broad implications for education in a multi-lingual society. Questions in this area concern understanding when and how such memory errors arise. Specifically, how quickly do people forget verbal information? What role do linguistic experience, working memory, and attention play in forgetting?

I am happy to supervise projects on the topics listed above or any topics concerned more broadly with language processing and memory.