We at the Cognitive Lexicon Laboratory take a computational approach to study the lexicon—the system of word-meaning mappings for human communication. The overarching question we ask is how languages rely on a finite lexicon to express a growing and potentially infinite set of ideas over time. This tension is often manifested in lexical creativity, such as the extension of word meanings and the formation of new words and expressions. We develop formal theories to characterize the cognitive mechanisms of word meaning extension and the basic principles underlying cross-linguistic semantic variation. This line of inquiry has led to the development of computational models that support the generation and interpretation of novel lexical use in machines. The methods we develop for diachronic text analysis also inform social-moral changes that are reflected in natural language use.

Sample publications