My training, research, and teaching are driven by a fascination with the representation of knowledge, especially linguistic knowledge. I bring an extensive background in linguistics, cognitive science, and psychology to investigate the question, “How do physical experiences and memories interact to shape our highly individuated and keenly vivid experience of meaning in language?”
My research draws not only theories of language and memory, but also demonstrates that our experiences of linguistic meaning are grounded in cognitive representations of our bodies, goals, emotions, and actions. More broadly, this perspective is becoming more widely known in cognitive science under two related names: Embodiment and Grounded Cognition. I apply these broad theoretic perspectives to answer specific questions about the ways that form and meaning in language interact.
My students and I use a variety of behavioral and psychophysiological methods to test theories of language comprehension. Many of our studies examine the dynamic nature of sentence structure (aka grammar or syntactic form). Some of our most recent research examines figurative language, because these non-literal expressions (e.g., Her laughter is sparkling champagne.) provide a contrasting window into questions of meaning. The meaning of the words evoke more than the sum of the parts. Our most recent investigations show that natural language and colloquial expressions offer surprising exceptions to even the most well-established linguistic theories.