I am an Associate Professor and the Undergraduate Program Director in the Department of Linguistics, with a co-appointment in the Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS), at Rutgers University. I am part of the Leadership Team and a co-director of the Language and Social Justice Initiative in the Rutgers New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences, a part of the Language Engagement Project.
I completed my Ph.D. in Linguistics at Northwestern University in 2007, with a specialization in Cognitive Science. I joined the Rutgers Linguistics faculty in 2011. Before that, I had a RuCCS Cognitive Science Fellowship and an NIH NRSA post-doctoral fellowship in Psychology.
My areas of expertise are in language acquisition and psycholinguistics, with a focus on how we acquire, represent, and process linguistic meaning, and how (and whether) the ability to do so changes over the course of development. In my experimental research, I gather empirical data that informs us about how children acquire the meaning of words, how children and adults interpret sentences that involve abstract syntax-semantic operations, and how the grammar interacts with other factors such as the discourse context and processing. I begin with formal linguistic theory to generate my research questions, and then use a variety of traditional and innovative methodologies to collect behavioral data that provide the answers and in turn shape our theories.
My main topics of investigation in semantics, pragmatics, syntax-semantics, and cognition include word learning (primarily of adjectives and verbs), gradability and vagueness in adjectives and nominals, comparative constructions, numerals, expressions of quantification and measurement, verb phrase ellipsis, and the contribution of prosody to meaning.
Parallel to my research, I am actively engaged in advocacy work within the field and in public outreach and media appearances to promote awareness and understanding about inclusive language, diversity, and the connection between language and social justice.
I have received the following awards and grants.
2021 Linguistics Faculty Superlative Award: Most Quarantine-Resilient Exercise Routine. Voted on by our UnderLINGs (undergraduate linguistics students).
2020 Linguistics Faculty Superlative Award: Most Likely to Secretly be Superwoman (second option: Most Skilled Baker). Voted on by our UnderLINGs (undergraduate linguistics students).
PI, NSF Grant (2021-2024), pending. (Athulya Aravind, MIT, co-PI)
Linguistic Service Award, Linguistic Society of America. 2019. For our organization of the COSWL Pop-Up Mentoring Program (PUMP) (shared with, clockwise from top left: Melissa Baese-Berk, Paola Cepeda, Hadas Kotek, me, Jessica Rett, and Ivona Kucerova). Read more here.
PI, NSF Grant (2019-2021): Doctoral Dissertation Research: “Linguistic cues and speaker goals in the question/answer exchange” (Morgan Moyer, Co-PI). NSF award no. BCS-1918068. Amount: $12,332
Early Career Award, Linguistic Society of America. 2018. Read more here.
PI, NSF Grant (2016-2017): “Support for the 2016 North American Summer School on Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI); July, 2016 – New Brunswick, New Jersey.” (Ernest Lepore, Mary Rigdon, Co-PIs). NSF award no. 1556428. Amount: $44,119
Best Paper Written by an Untenured Scientist awarded by Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics for “Collectivity, distributivity, and the interpretation of plural numerical expressions in child and adult language,” published in Issue 20.4. 2013
Linguistic Service Award, Linguistic Society of America. 2007. Read more here.
I have been awarded the following fellowships.
Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, Rutgers University. 2017
NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Post-Doctoral Fellowship. 2008-2011
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University. 2007-2008
Presidential Fellowship, The Graduate School, Northwestern University. 2005-2007
Bernard and Julia Bloch Memorial Fellowship, Linguistic Society of America. 2003-2005
My research, lab, and/or I have been featured in the following media outlets. In addition, I perform consultant and outreach work with a number of major organizations on inclusive language.
Contact me via email if you are interested in organizing a consulting session or interview!
Interviewed and featured in Episode: Invasive Species!, American Refugee (Sam Graber)
Interviewed and quoted in 3 “compliments” that actually fetishize POC (by Melissa Pandika) Mic.com 5/24/21
Featured in Rutgers Arts and Sciences release Exploring the connection between language and justice: New Rutgers humanities initiative seeks interdisciplinary conversations (by John Chadwick) 4/8/21
Interviewed and quoted in What exactly does it mean to be a patriot? Experts say it’s not easy to define (by Amir Vera) CNN 1/30/21
Interviewed and quoted in How to Incorporate Inclusive Language in Your Marketing Materials (by Althea Fung) Health Care Marketing 9/18/20
Interviewed and quoted in Here are some commonly used terms that actually have racist origins (by Olivia Eubanks) ABC News 7/30/20
Interviewed and featured on The Language of Racism: Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Master Bedroom, Cake Walk, Grandfather Clause WBUR’s Here & Now/NPR 7/23/20
Interviewed and cited in From ‘master bedroom’ to ‘blacklist’: What will it take to change racist terms in our everyday language? (by Korin Miller) Yahoo! Life 7/7/20
Interviewed and featured in Episode: The Fascinating Ways Video Chat May Impact Language, In Plain Language (Kelsey Kloss)
Interviewed for the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences News: A Rutgers linguist discusses the battle over sexist language
My lab featured in The Daily Targum, Rutgers: Rutgers linguistics lab researches computer interactions with language
Interviewed and featured in Episode: How is the internet changing language for kids, In Plain Language (Kelsey Kloss)
Quoted in coverage of the Berkeley gender-neutral language ordinance, The Associated Press [Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley drops gender-specific words, Business Insider] 7/19/19
My lab featured in Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Access Magazine [pdf]
My lab featured in Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences feature on RuCCS
Quoted in Millenials discuss origin of modern language terms. The Daily Targum, Rutgers
Work/Life balance is very important to me.
I have two children and two beagles. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 20 years. I love ashtanga, Jivamukti, and a good hot power vinyasa flow class. I also enjoy hiking, zip lining, high-intensity workouts, bike riding, and spinning. I’m a pescatarian/vegetarian. I love baking. If I were at Hogwarts, I would be sorted into Ravenclaw.