Research

I employ experimental, computational, and theoretical approaches in my research. On the empirical side, I explore the brain basis of syntactic and semantic processing of argument and event structure using magnetoencephalography (MEG). On the computational side, I have created a corpus of natural language inference, as well as utilizing semantic vector representations to investigate questions about argument structure. On the theoretical side, I investigate issues relevant to the syntax-semantics interface, e.g., the connection between argument and event structure in English and Mandarin Chinese, the nature of the connection between number, definiteness, and kind reference.

My most recent experimental work has been on the neurolinguistic processing of argument structure, and particularly of functional relational concepts. The main research question is twofold: how is argument structure represented in the brain, and how to comprehenders process it? Prior research in psychology points to the left Angular Gyrus as a region which may play a  role in processing either event structure or argument structure. This work attempts to determine which, while simultaneously investigating whether the Angular Gyrus also plays a combinatory role in language processing.  I used MEG to investigate these questions for my dissertation.  This project was advised by Liina Pylkkänen (chair), Alec Marantz, Sam Bowman, Chris Barker, and Andrei Cimpian.

I work on Natural Language Understanding with Sam Bowman (NYU Linguistics/CDS, ML2). We have created a manually-annotated corpus for natural language inference (MultiNLI; the corpus is available here, and the preliminary write-up is available here), and for use as a resource for developing deep machine learning models that do sentence encoding. This corpus is part of shared task at the RepEval 2017 Workshop at EMNLP in Copenhagen. We also have an (accepted) paper with Andrew Drozdov (eBay) on evaluating latent parse trees that were arrived at by end-to-end sentence encoders learning from our MultiNLI corpus (see arxiv here).

I have an ongoing theoretical semantic project (under review as a volume chapter) that investigates the effect of lexical semantic “constants” on syntactic realizations. It investigates English Weak Definites and Bare Singulars by taking their lack of “uniqueness” to stem from the interaction between definiteness and number within the noun phrase. I put forth a shared analysis of “weakness” that utilizes semantic root ambiguity (Levinson 2014, Rappaport-Hovav & Levin 1998). This account has syntactic consequences that resonate with recent cross-linguistic morphosyntactic accounts of number phenomena that argue NumP is the host of number interpretation and marking (Ritter 1991, 1992, 1995) in languages like Amharic, (Kramer 2009), Halkomelem Salish (Wiltschko 2008), and Haitian Creole (Déprez 2005).

I also have a syntax-semantics interface project on the Mandarin Chinese locative preposition zai when it is used to construct progressive aspect. I explore connections between syntactic argument structure and temporal event structure, while simultaneously presenting novel arguments that this element is prepositional in every case. This qualifying paper project was advised by Stephanie Harves (chair),  Alec Marantz and Richard Kayne.  Another theoretical project I have been pursuing concerns the interaction between definiteness and number interpretation in American English. Recent developments in this project involve work on PP- and object-shift with Haoze Li, resulting in a poster for LSA 2017.

 

If you’re curious:  Google Scholar Profile, GitHub and ORCID iD icon orcid.org/0000-0001-5281-3343