We at the Cognitive Lexicon Laboratory take a computational cognitive approach to study the lexicon—the system of word-meaning mappings for human communication. The overarching question we ask is how a finite lexicon is adapted to express a growing and potentially infinite range of ideas with clarity. We investigate the emergent properties of the lexicon that help resolve this tension, such as the emergence of novel word meanings and expressions, by developing formal theories to characterize their underlying cognitive mechanisms (e.g., semantic chaining [1][2]) and functional principles for efficient communication (e.g., [3][4]). This line of work has led to the development of probabilistic generative models that support the generation and interpretation of emerging lexical use in machines (e.g., [5][6]). The methods we develop for diachronic textual analysis also facilitate the scalable inference of connotative meaning changes that reflect moral and social changes (e.g., [7][8]).

Sample publications