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Research

Below are current faculty research interests with links to their directory pages. These statements are current as of November 2011.

Myrdene Anderson
Longitudinal ethnography on several projects: Contemporary Saami media and multilingualism; Post-Chernobyl organization of priorities in Lapland; Saami demography; Saami reindeer-herding dog's transformation to show dog outside of Lapland; U.S. community gardens; U.S. organic gardening litigation; high-school reunions; artificial life movement; AND Collaborative research concerning the intersections of auto/biography and auto/ethnography.

Elena Benedicto
Prof. Benedicto specializes in the syntax-semantics interface and directs the Indigenous and Endangered Languages Lab (IELLab) at Purdue.  Her main theoretical interests center around the feature specification of functional projections in the clausal structure.  She has worked on classifiers in Mayangna and sign languages (ASL, LSA, LSC, HKSL) and is currently working on the V-V syntactic complex, modality and evidentiality in Mayangna.

The IELLab strives to intersect the goals of formal theoretical syntax with the needs of communities speaking indigenous, minority and endangered languages, using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach.  Researchers in the IELLab (postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students and visitors) are working or have worked on projects about languages from Asia (Hokkien, Swatawe, Jordanian Arabic), Africa (Kedjom, Tigrinya), Europe (Basque, Catalan) and the Americas (Mayangna).

Prof. Benedicto's current projects (as of Fall 2011) focus on:

  • Mayangna.  Grammar and (monolingual) Dictionary; Ethnobotanic knowledge and linguistic implications; Participatory Action Research; Morpho-syntactic correlates of Serial Verb Constructions.
  • Sign Languages.  Switch Reference systems in Serial Verb Constructions.
  • Language Acquisition.  Natural acquisition of multiple languages by children, focusing on formal linguistic aspects but paying attention to issues of attrition of the heritage language. (with S. Park)

Margie Berns
With world Englishes and second language teaching as areas of specialization, Margie Berns' research focus is the sociolinguistics of English in a variety of settings, especially, South America, China, and Europe. This work aims to create awareness of the distinctiveness of Englishes worldwide and promote acceptance of the non-canonical forms and functions of newer varieties. With its relevance to everyone anywhere who learns and uses English, the research findings have implications for language planning, literary studies, creative writing, language teaching, and linguistic analysis.

Becky Brown
Professor Brown's research centers on sociolinguistic issues in language contact situations. She is particularly interested in the linguistic structure of the French language in its various forms in the Francophone world. Analyses focus on language variation and change as these codes converge with or diverge from other Romance languages, English and creoles.

Alex Francis
My research investigates factors that affect how listeners identify and make use of linguistically relevant acoustic properties (cues) in the speech signal. One aspect of this research focuses on the role of linguistic experience, examining the effects of both long-term experience during the acquisition of a native language and short-term experience from laboratory training or preceding context. The other component of my research investigates how the processing of acoustic cues is affected by age-related changes in hearing, alone and in combination with age-related changes to cognitive mechanisms such as working memory and selective attention. I am also interested in the production, perception and acquisition of lexical tones (especially in Cantonese), and factors contributing to the intelligibility of synthetic speech. I regularly teach courses in aging and communication, acoustics, and phonetics, and occasionally in research methods and attention.

Alejandro Cuza
Professor Cuza is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics.  He completed his Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Toronto in 2008.  His research focuses on the linguistic and cognitive processes involved in the L2 acquisition of Spanish syntax and semantics, first language attrition, heritage language development and child bilingual acquisition.  In this context, Professor Cuza has examined the acquisition and loss of tense and aspect, subject-verb inversion, pronominal objects, bare nominals and the acquisition of CP-related structures in Spanish L2 learners and heritage speakers.  Professor Cuza is also the director of the Advanced Spanish Program and the Spanish for Heritage Speakers Program.

Elaine J. Francis
Elaine J. Francis is an assistant professor in the Department of English and in the Linguistics Program at Purdue. Her research investigates how syntactic, semantic, and processing factors interact to determine grammatical structure. She is particularly interested in phenomena involving syntax-semantics mismatch-- the use of formal structures to express meanings that are atypical of those structure. Her research asks following questions:

  • How are mismatches best represented in the grammar?
  • How are mismatches constrained, and why are some types of mismatch are especially difficult for listeners/readers to comprehend?
  • To what extent can apparently syntactic phenomena be explained by factors external to the syntax, such as semantic structure or processing constraints?

Her current experimental projects focus on word order, category structure, and processing of English free relative clauses, English extraposition constructions, and Cantonese verb-doubling constructions. She uses a multi-modular theoretical framework, based primarily on Autolexical Syntax (Sadock 1991, Yuasa 2005) and Parallel Architecture (Jackendoff 2002, Culicover & Jackendoff 2005).

Her most recent articles include: "A multi-modular approach to gradual change in grammaticalization" (with Etsuyo Yuasa, Journal of Linguistics 44 , to appear 2008), "Categoriality and object extraction in Cantonese serial verb constructions" (with Stephen Matthews, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 24, 2006), "A multi-dimensional approach to the category 'verb' in Cantonese" (with Stephen Matthews, Journal of Linguistics 41, 2005), and "Syntactic mimicry as evidence for prototypes in grammar" (in Polymorphous Linguistics, MIT Press, 2005). She is also co-editor with Laura A. Michaelis of Mismatch: Form-function Incongruity and the Architecture of Grammar (CSLI Publications, 2003), as well as co-editor with Salikoko S. Mufwene and Rebecca S. Wheeler of Polymorphous Linguistics: Jim McCawley's Legacy (MIT Press, 2005).

Atsushi Fukada
My research interests include Japanese linguistics in general, pragmatics, and computational linguistics. The study of pragmatics is important because it attempts to explicate how people use language to get all sorts of things accomplished in life. These may include establishing, maintaining, and terminating relationships, as well as all sorts of complex tasks involving verbal communication (say, making a case for a position in a debate).

April Ginther
Broadly, my research interests focus on the relationships between language testing, assessment, and formal contexts for second language acquisition. I am the director of the Oral English Proficiency Program at Purdue University and within the program are many opportunities for students interested in research on testing, assessment, and instruction. Current projects include an examination of temporal measures of fluency, examinee self-assessment of proficiency, and instructors' assessments of examinee proficiency as related to oral English proficiency test scores. We are beginning a project that will examine the relationship between scores on the TOEFL iBT and Purdue's Oral English Proficiency Test that will consider the relationship between different departmental cut scores and long range measures of academic success.

Robert Hammond
Spanish Language and Linguistics; Phonetics, Phonology and Dialectology of Spanish; Psychoacoustics; Portuguese and French Linguistics; Language Contact; Romance and Basque Linguistics; Phonological Theory; Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition

David Kemmerer
David's research focuses on how different kinds of linguistic meaning are mediated by different neural systems, drawing on behavioral and lesion data from brain-damaged patients as well as behavioral and functional neuroimaging data from normal subjects. His current projects include the linguistic encoding of space and the syntax-semantics interface. In addition, he is interested in the evolution of language and the neural correlates of consciousness.

Laurence B. Leonard
Leonard studies language acquisition in typically developing children and in children with language impairments. Much of his work focuses on children with "specific language impairment." These are children with significant deficits in language ability without any obvious accompanying sensory or developmental problems. These children constitute a paradox: if (as we often read) all "normal" children acquire language without difficulty, how can we explain specific language impairment, given that the only thing that is not "normal" in these children is their difficulty with language acquisition? Much of Leonard's research is cross-linguistic in nature; together with colleagues in other countries, Leonard has studied specific language impairment as it is manifested in English, Italian, Hebrew, Swedish, Spanish, Cantonese, and, more recently, Hungarian.

Mary Niepokuj
My research interests focus on the relationship among language change, reconstruction, and linguistic theory. Although much of my work has focused on historical phonology and morphology, I am interested in semantic change and semantic reconstruction as well. In phonology, I focus on the extent to which linguistic theory explains attested patterns of linguistic change. Most of my work focuses on the Indo-European language family.

Daniel Olson
Daniel Olson is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics. His research focus is experimental phonetics and phonology, particularly in bilingual populations. His previous work has examined the phonetic patterns associated with language switching in Spanish-English bilinguals, with a focus on suprasegmental production and perception. Most recently, adding to a growing field of research surrounding the nature of bilingual language storage, his work has investigated the cognitive mechanisms that bilinguals use to separate their two languages, at both the lexical and phonetic level.  As a complimentary area of research, Professor Olson is also working on a project that examines the utility of speech analysis software as a means to further second learner acquisition of more native-like productions.

Felicia Roberts
Dr. Roberts studies language practices that construct everyday and institutional life. Her current research focuses on silence in conversation, with particular emphasis on the interaction of silence following particular speech acts (requests, invitations, assessments, etc.) and the intonation of responses. She is studying this across languages and will be investigating it across the lifespan as well. Ongoing interests in institutional discourse (especially service encounters such as medical and counseling interactions), human-animal interaction, language attitudes, perception of non-standard speakers, language variation and change.

Amanda Seidl
To learn a language is to learn which sounds and which syntactic structures are relevant for communication, and to learn to map between the sound and syntactic systems. Broadly speaking, the aim of my research program is to investigate how infants acquire both the phonological and syntactic structures of their input language. To do this, I study infants' phonological learning in controlled situations using a variety of infant-friendly methods (Headturn Preference, Preferential Looking and Visual Habituation). I use these procedures to investigate two separate yet convergent issues in phonological acquisition --infants' use of prosodic cues to segment grammatical units from continuous speech, and the acquisition of segmental phonology and the distinction between learned and innate phonotactics and phonological classes.

Tony Silva
With increased globalization, being multilingual is more important than ever. And with the exponential growth in the number of people using the internet, much, if not most, international communication is done in writing. This situation drives the growing interest in and need for research and scholarship on second language writing. My particular interests in this area include basic and comparative empirical research on second language writing and second language writers. My basic research involves investigating the linguistic, rhetorical, and strategic dimensions of second language writing. My comparative research looks at similarities and differences in the writing of native and non-native writers of a language and in individual writers' first and second language writing. The aims of all of my research are to understand the phenomenon of second language writing, to develop a data-based theory of second language writing, and to use such a theory to design and develop principled second language writing instructional programs.

Jeffrey Siskind
Computational models of child language acquisition, particularly acquisition of phonology, syntax, and lexical semantics. Gathering and analyzing corpora of infant-directed speech. Grounding lexical semantics in visual event recognition and robotic manipulation.

John Sundquist
My main area of research is historical Germanic linguistics with an emphasis on syntactic change. In particular, I am interested in identifying patterns of variation that Germanic languages have shown in earlier stages, examining internal and external causes for change in the areas of syntax and morphology. Although my research focuses mainly on the Scandinavian languages, I attempt to draw parallels with historical developments in other Indo-European languages.

A secondary area of my research deals with the relationship between language acquisition and language change. I am mainly interested in variable use of morphology and word order in first and second language acquisition. A long-term research project of mine examines whether language change is more attributable to language acquisition among children or to language usage among adults.

Mariko Moroishi Wei
Professor Mariko Moroishi Wei is an Associate Professor of Japanese and Linguistics. Her main area of research is second language acquisition with an emphasis on vocabulary and reading.  Her most recent reserach interest concerns the development of lexical skills in bilingual children with autism spectrum disorder.

Ronnie B. Wilbur
I investigate the structure of sign language (syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and prosody) and what that tells us about the nature of language, mind/cognition, and brain.  I also consider the educational and linguistic factors that inhibit full development of English literacy by deaf children and apply the research on sign languages to improving Deaf Education.