Welcome to LEAP!

Language Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing (LEAP) is a workshop at the University of Chicago, funded by the Council on Advanced Studies.

Schedule: Fall Quarter 2023

  • Unless otherwise noted, LEAP will take place on select Fridays from 11 am to 12:20 pm in person in Classics 113 and on Zoom.
  • Click the toggle button to read more details about each talk.
  • Additional details (including Zoom links) will be sent via our mailing list. Sign up here!
  • Add the LEAP schedule to your calendar by clicking here.

Talk Details

6 October – Planning Meeting — ONLINE ONLY!

Join us on Zoom to meet your new coordinator and faculty sponsors, discuss plans for this year’s workshop, and get to know fellow LEAPers! The Zoom link will be sent out by email.

13 October at 3:30 pm  – Matt Goldrick (Professor, Linguistics, Northwestern)

This talk will be jointly hosted by LEAP and the Language Variation and Change workshop (LVC) and will take place at 3:30 pm in Cobb Hall 115.

Title: Mechanisms of language control at multiple levels of linguistic structure

Abstract: Multilingual speakers have the amazing capacity to shift between quite different codes for communication. What cognitive mechanisms allow speakers to fluently produce an intended language, even when one language is much more difficult to access than another? I’ll discuss data from experiments eliciting isolated words and connected speech from bilingual speakers that suggests lexical inhibition– a temporary reduction in the accessibility of lexical items in the easier-to-access language – plays a key role in allowing bilinguals to fluently shift languages. I’ll then discuss phonetic data suggesting that different mechanisms may be at play in the processing of sound structure.

3 November – Lucas Fagen (PhD Student, Linguistics, UChicago)

Pronominal and reflexive resolution in noncomplementary environments

Abstract: Binding theory aims to explain the finding that pronouns and reflexives are often in complementary distribution. Syntactic environments in which complementarity does not hold have thus attracted attention. Descriptively, complementarity in English appears strongest when pronouns, reflexives, and their antecedents are coarguments of the same predicate. Experimental literature on anaphora has found that the structural restrictions posited by binding theory influence resolution, but the majority of studies have only tested coargument contexts. I’ll present data from experiments examining pronominal and reflexive resolution across a wider range of environments than prior studies have tested: coarguments, picture noun phrases, comparatives, coordination, and prepositional phrases. Although complementarity is indeed strongest in coargument positions, results show substantial gradience across environments. I’ll discuss this finding in the context of the theoretical literature on anaphora.

17 November – Dave Kush (Asst. Professor, Linguistics, Univ. of Toronto)

Grammatical prediction in active dependency resolution: Insights from cataphora

Abstract: Real-time dependency resolution is an active process. Nearly all researchers agree that active dependency resolution relies, to some extent, on prediction: comprehenders appear to commit to analyses in advance of unambiguous confirmatory evidence. Researchers disagree, however, on how far in advance prediction occurs, what portions of linguistic representation(s) are predicted, and how to characterize the mechanisms that subserve predictive processes. In this talk, I’ll present results from a series of collaborative studies on the processing of cataphora in Norwegian, Dutch, and English to probe the limits of prediction. I’ll argue (i) that comprehenders can make predictions earlier than is commonly assumed, (ii) that fine-grained predictions are made above the lexical level, and (iii) that predictive mechanisms are (relatively) grammatically faithful. I discuss how these results support a model of hierarchical prediction as inference to the best analysis across multiple levels of linguistic representation.

1 December – Casey Ferrara (PhD Candidate, Psychology, UChicago)

Title: Show and Tell: Children’s use of depiction in sign and silent gesture

Abstract: Depiction is a powerful tool for communicating visual information. However, to depict a specific entity, event, or scene, we often need to get creative and make use of non-standardized forms (e.g., playing with the forms of words, incorporating gestures, etc.). In this study I investigate the ways that children develop depictive strategies in the manual modality using (1) deaf children acquiring ASL, and (2) hearing children using silent gesture. I’ll be presenting newly collected data from hearing and deaf children and reviewing preliminary findings.

About LEAP

Language evolution, acquisition, and processing are research topics of great interest to language researchers. The LEAP workshop brings together students and faculty from Linguistics, Psychology, Comparative Human Development, Neuroscience, Computer Science and other fields to foster a unique interdisciplinary perspective. We aim not only to familiarize students with the wealth of language research at the University, but also to allow students to receive feedback from faculty in different disciplines and to foster collaboration among language researchers from different fields.

Join our Mailing List

Head to this link to sign up for the LEAP mailing list.

Contact Us

Please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in getting involved! LEAP’s student coordinator for 2023-24 is Parker Robbins (Linguistics, probbins[at]uchicago[dot]edu). LEAP’s faculty sponsors for 2023-24 are: Ming Xiang (Linguistics) and Monica Do (Linguistics).