What drives my research:
How do we manage to make sense of language at the astonishingly rapid speed that we do in everyday communication? This is the key question in the field of modern psycholinguistics, and one that we are still a long way from being able to answer satisfactorily. Most previous research has focused on adult native speakers; much less is known about the processes underlying real-time language use by non-native or bilingual speakers, nor about how these processes develop over time during (first, second, or bilingual) language development. My research program explores these latter questions, fueled by the conviction that if we are to understand what is arguably our species’ most sophisticated accomplishment – language – it is not enough to look at how monolingual adults, a minority of people worldwide, use it. Bi-/multilingualism is the norm in many parts of the world, including (though not always acknowledged) here in Hawai‘i. Understanding how we function in more than one language, and how we are able to make sense of these multiple, native and non-native languages, in real-time is an essential piece in understanding the human capacity for language, and a core component of my research program.
My main focus has been on linguistic phenomena at the level of the sentence and above (discourse). I seem to be drawn to working on "little words", which have included object clitics in French (le, la) and Spanish (lo, la), determiners in Spanish (la, el), disjunction in English (or) and Japanese (ka), classifiers in Chinese (tiao, zhang), and pronouns in English (he, she). Perhaps my fascination stems from the fact that these little words often do not serve an obvious communicative function, yet they appear to be critical ingredients in sentence and discourse processing. They might thus hold particularly useful clues as to how we navigate real-time communication as deftly and successfully as we do.
My research involves studies with participants aged between 2 and 70+ years. I have worked with learners of a number of different languages, including French, English, German, Afrikaans, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese, and I am always striving to extend this list.
Projects I am currently involved in:
- The role of discourse and prosody in pronoun interpretation by native and non-native speakers
(with Hannah Rohde and Amy J. Schafer)
- Cross-linguistic activation of referential bias in second-language learners of English
(with Hyunwoo Kim)
- The Perception, Processing and Learning of Mandarin Tone by Second Language Speakers
(with Wenyi Ling)
- Processing of classifiers in L1 and L2 Chinese
(with Elaine Lau and Wenyi Ling)
Funded by Language Learning's Small Grants Research Program
- Syntactic interference in L2 processing of wh-questions
(with Tom Rankin and Holger Hopp)
Funded by a UH Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Award and a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).