Psycholinguistics is an interdisciplinary field that investigates how people use, acquire, and represent language. The research interests of our psycholinguistics faculty include various aspects of language processing in adults, as well as first and second language acquisition and issues of language impairment across the life-span. Researchers in child and adult psycholinguistics share interests in investigating and understanding the mechanisms that influence human language representation and processing, and do so with both behavioral and computational modeling studies.

Dr. Kaiser’s Language Processing Lab investigates the nature of adult language processing, including issues such as how different kinds of linguistic information (e.g., syntactic structure and discourse-referential information) are interpreted and integrated during real-time processing. Dr. Kaiser is especially interested in cross-linguistic work and has conducted research on a range of languages including Finnish, Estonian, Dutch, and English.

Dr. Mintz’s Language Development Lab focuses on the processing and representation of linguistic material by infants and young children, and the learning of artificial grammar by adults. Dr. Mintz also collaborates with Dr. Walker and Dr. Byrd on speech processing in infants.

The SLA group at the USC Linguistics department studies second language acquisition (SLA) by children and adults from a linguistic perspective, with the goal of determining what kind of grammars are acquired and processed by second language learners. Both the developmental process of SLA and the possibility of ultimate attainment are investigated, with a focus on issues such as child/adult differences and similarities, transfer from the learners’ native language, and access to universal features/processes. The SLA group focuses on the acquisition of grammatical interfaces, in particular topics at the syntax/semantics and syntax/prosody interfaces. Ongoing projects in the SLA group investigate the acquisition of determiners, quantifier scope, argument structure, and the parsing and comprehension of  wh-questions.  Research is conducted with a variety of learner groups, including speakers of Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Korean.

Researching grammar from a neurolinguistic perspective, Dr. Pancheva has initiated, in collaboration with colleagues outside USC, a research program aimed at elucidating the brain bases of semantics. This program investigates the combinatorial, grammatical aspects of meaning, with the specific aim of identifying the broad neuro-anatomical structures and electrophysiological patterns associated with semantic composition. The semantic phenomena currently investigated include the distribution of negative polarity items, the definiteness effect, and the mass/count distinction.

Research facilities are available in the Linguistics department (which houses the Language Processing Lab), in the Hedco Neuroscience Building (which houses the work on both aging and Alzheimer’s disease and on child-machine spoken interaction, and in the Psychology department (which houses the Language Development Lab). These facilities provide testing rooms and research assistant space equipped with PC and Macintosh computers, an eye-tracker, A/V equipment, and equipment for testing infants. The USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences also has an fMRI facilty, the Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center.

  • Chair: Andrew Simpson
  • 3601 Watt Way
  • Grace Ford Salvatori 301
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1693