photo: Chris Carmichael
Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Fall 2014 Office Hours: Wednesdays 9-11 a.m. or by appointment
email: combine my first initial and my last name at email.unc.edu
|Research Interests||Lab||Courses||CV||Recent Publications|
My background is in syntactic theory and the acquisition of syntax, both morphosyntax and argument structure, in children (first language). I'm also interested in language processing, computational modeling, learnability theory, as well as visual cognition and spatial representation.
My current research is about how children learn "displacing" predicates. These are verbs and adjectives that do not select an external argument (subject) and thus allow another NP to be "displaced" into the subject position. Displacing predicates include raising verbs (e.g. seem or appear), tough adjectives (easy), unaccusative verbs (arrive) and passives. My main question is how children distinguish these predicates from control verbs (want or claim), control adjectives (eager), unergative verbs (laugh) and actives. These are predicates that do select an external argument but occur in superficially similar sentence environments (e.g. John seems/claims to like pizza). The answer I am currently pursuing is that NP animacy provides a crucial cue: encountering a predicate with an inanimate subject should tell learners that the predicate is a displacing predicate.
I have just completed a book about how NP (in)animacy helps children acquire displacing predicates.
In addition, I have on-going collaborative projects with:
- W. Garrett Mitchener (Mathematics, College of Charleston) on developing a computational learning algorithm to model how children acquire the distinction between raising and control verbs, and other pairs of displacing and non-displacing predicates;
- Bruno Estigarribia (Romance Languages, UNC) on experiments with adults and children to discover how sentential factors (e.g. subject animacy) influence individual's inferences about novel raising/control verbs and tough/control adjectives;
- Masako Hirotani (School of Linguistics and Language Studies and Institute of Cognitive Science, Carleton University) on ERP studies of children's grammaticality judgments
In the past my work focused more on the acquisition of morphosyntax and aspect. My dissertation is on the development of the copula (be) in English (available through the IRCS Technical Reports series; tech report #00-05 under 2000 tech reports). A text version of the abstract is available here. (If the link to IRCS does not work, please send me an e-mail.)
Information about the UNC Language Development Lab, including our current and recent studies.