Research Areas

Our community is at the forefront of language research, whether it is conducted at universities, in clinical settings, in the community, or with our industry partners. Words in the World project members are active researchers at the cutting edge of their fields.

Our research areas include:

  • Accessibility & Communication: Researchers in this field work on applying linguistic knowledge to communication practices within communities.
  • Brain & Language: In this area, researchers study how language is instantiated in the brain. Traditionally, work in this field includes topics such as aphasia and neuroimaging.
  • Child Language Acquisition: Studies focusing on how children learn their first language(s). Researchers also work on developmental language disorders that present in children, such as Specific Language Impairment.
  • Experimental Psycholinguistics: The study of language processing, or how people “do” language.
  • Language Disorders: Researchers working in this field focus on problems that arise in language use, running the gamut from childhood developmental language disorders to language disruptions resulting from injury or disease.
  • Reading & Literacy: Research in this area focuses on individual reading ability and literacy initiatives.
  • Second Language Learning & Bilingualism: This field focuses on how people learn a second (or subsequent) language after childhood, and how the knowledge of more than one language can affect language processing. This field also includes research into teaching a second language.
  • Speech: Researchers in this field study how people produce and comprehend the spoken language.

Research is conducted in the laboratory with controlled experiments, and through clinical studies, observational studies, and statistical modelling. Our methods include:

  • Behavioural experiments: In experimental psycholinguistics, a major tool of inquiry is the reaction time experiment. In these experiments, participants are presented with stimuli (usually words), and then asked to do something with them while being timed. The resulting time to react (e.g., by pressing a button) is measured and analyzed. The lexical decision task is among the most common of these, and asks that participants decide whether an item that they see is actually an existing word or not.
  • Eye-tracking: Eye-tracking experiments are used to study eye-movements during reading, speaking, and listening. We measure where the eye stops (fixates) on a word or on an image, the movement trajectory of the eye and how long movement takes, and pupil dilation.
  • Electroencephalogram/Event-Related Potentials (ERP), Magnetoencepholography (MEG): We study brain responses related to language by examining tiny electrical potentials at the scalp that are recorded in response to linguistic stimuli. We also study changes in the magnetic field generated by neural activity in response to language use.
  • Corpus-based studies: We study language use through records of communication (e.g., child language development, spoken conversation). Beyond data collection as part of a specific project, there is a tremendous amount of data available through large-scale corpora (collections of text, including spoken transcriptions of text) that can be used to address linguistic questions.

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