Bilingualism and Conceptual Representation

The question of whether conceptual representation is language-specific has attracted much research attention. In our lab, we attempt to answer this question by comparing categorical organization in two languages of bilinguals. By testing bilinguals with different language backgrounds, our research aims at generalizable insights about the mental organization of concepts.

Bilingualism and Brain Functioning

The idea that learning a second language irrevocably modifies the brain has been prevalent in psychological literature for decades, but the exact nature of differences between bilingual and monolingual mental processes continues to be researched. This project examines the issue by targeting phenomena such as biliteracy in scripts with different directionality/orientation, and translating experience in early childhood.

Word Recognition Across Orthographies

Words are considered the building blocks of language. The diversity in the world’s spoken languages is reflected in the wide range of orthographies employed in represent written languages. Work in our lab is aimed at delineating the relationship between the orthographic properties of different languages, including grain size, phonological transparency and visiospatial complexity, and the respective word recognition strategies used by readers.

Task/Language Switching

Attention and memory research has demonstrated that moving or switching from one mental task to another, as well as performing multiple tasks simultaneously require additional cognitive resources. In an extension of this logic, this project studies the implications of bilingualism and multilingualism on the allocation of cognitive resources.

Phrase and Sentence Processing

In this project, we investigate how complex linguistic stimuli are processed in different languages.  We accomplish this by examining the influence of grammatical, morphological, semantic, and pragmatic variables on language perception and comprehension. Among others, the variables targeted in our experiments include literal versus figurative meanings, and linguistic differences in gender marking, case inflection, etc.

Linguistic Influences on Auditory Perception

In the past, researchers have shown that learning to read and write modifies the perception of speech sounds. Research in this lab explores the impact of literacy, bilingualism, and multilingualism on the perception and processing of linguistic as well as non-linguistic sounds.

Handedness, Gesture and Language

The specialization of the left cerebral hemisphere for language processing is an established fact. Hand dominance, however, is an important determinant of the balance of language functions between left and right hemispheres. Our work examines the interaction of handedness and language lateralization within the brain, and the consequences for verbal and non-verbal communication.

Humor Perception and Production

A sense of humor is valued very highly in many societies, but what actually constitutes a humorous outlook? Our lab investigates the differences in people’s ability to understand jokes along with interrelations among humor perception, linguistic background and language ability.

Humor Perception Across Languages, Gender, and Cultures

What is funny in one society or culture may not be musing or possibly even offensive in another. Similarly, anyone who has tried to translate a joke knows how closely language is related to humor perception. In this project, we examine the factors that determine what people perceive as humorous.

Creative Thought

Since language is the medium of most (if not all) thought, a crucial topic in creativity research concerns the correlation between language ability and creative cognition. The research in our lab focuses on the influence of bilingualism and multilingualism on creative thinking.

Language and Identity

Language is known to be inextricably linked to culture. If so, does learning a second language modify one’s cultural identity? This question is addressed in our lab by examining the influence of sociolinguistic factors such as age of acquisition, nature of language experiences, and pattern of language usage on the individual’s internal and externally perceived cultural identity.

Language and Thought

According to linguistic relativity theory, the language that we speak shapes our cognition and thinking style. The research in our lab focuses on the influence of languages on cognitive processes such as memory.