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New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain & Behaviour
I’m interested in how language varies across people, and how it changes over time. I investigate what factors interact to explain observed patterns of variation and change. I use data from corpora and human experiments, especially web-based experiments. My recent work focuses on how the creation and adoption of new words can be explained by patterns of sounds (phonotactics and phonology) and units of meaning (words and morphemes). In addition to these traditional linguistic factors, I study the role of social-indexical meaning on word creation: for example, how people’s judgments are affected by their associations of words ending in -ology with science and men. Put simply, how do these factors affect whether people accept or reject a new, unknown word? I consider what consequences these answers have for our models of the mental lexicon and of language change.