My research starts from the premise that learners’ experience using language shapes their linguistic representations. From there, I want to know how lexical and sublexical information interact: How does a speaker go from retrieving a word to articulating it? How does a listener go from speech acoustics to language comprehension? What are the representations and processes involved, and how are they shaped by linguistic experience?
To get at these questions of exposure and experience, much of my work investigates language processing and phonetic and phonological representations in multilingual speakers. I use a variety of methods in my work, the most prominent ones currently being corpus phonetics and the visual world paradigm. The combination of these allows me to better understand the forms that bilingual speech takes “in the wild”, and to ask questions about the extent to which bilingual listeners are sensitive to the types of variation they encounter in everyday conversation. In current work with Judy Kroll and Giuli Dussias, I’m looking at the types of phonetic changes that happen in anticipation of language switches during spontaneous codeswitching, and then using the visual world paradigm to investigate whether bilinguals can use these phonetic cues to anticipate upcoming codeswitches.
Of course, part of the fun of working with spontaneous speech corpora is the need to better understand how multiple factors interact to give rise to the variation we observe. To this end, I (along with my colleague Gerrit Jan Kootstra) have recently begun looking at the syntactic and discourse-level variables that condition the probability that bilinguals will codeswitch. This is new and exciting territory for me; it’s my hope that a better understanding of the complexity of speech planning “higher up” in the process can lead to insights into what’s going on at lower levels as well.