BA (Linguistics), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Human languages vary, in both striking and subtle ways. Each dimension of variation provides novel challenges to theories of grammatical knowledge, sentence processing, and language acquisition. Our theories of linguistic knowledge must be flexible enough to accomodate the range of variation we observe without permitting any imaginable language. Our theories of sentence processing must explain how the differing demands of different grammars are handled such that humans can understand sentences effortlessly and incrementally. Finally, theories of language acquisition must explain how children navigate the space of possible language, and leverage their linguistic exposure to select the correct grammar. My research has focussed on comparative syntax (particularly South Asian languages) and comparative psycholinguistics. I have studied the syntax of Bengali/Bangla, a typologically unusual language with many properties that serve as useful case studies for testing syntactic theories. Additionally, I have performed a series of experiments in Bengali/Bangla that test the way that varying word order effects the parser's predictions in filler-gap dependencies, with parallel studies in the interpretation of English resumptive pronouns. This work has revealed that superficially similar constructions are not always processed in the same way across languages, and has informed our understanding of the comprehension of filler-gap dependencies more broadly. I have also done work examining the input that English-, Spanish-, and Italian-learners hear to determine whether the input is sufficiently informative for the learner to select the appropriate grammar. This work has shown that the inductive mechanisms that childrens must use are more abstract, and that ``indirect learning'' is necessary for certain constructions.
Colin Phillips, Howard Lasnik, Michael Fetters, Eric Pelzl, Mashrur Imtiaz, Shirsho Dasgupta, Sikder Monoare Murshed, Mina Dan, Margaret Kandel, Rebecca Kraut