We at the Cognitive Lexicon Laboratory take a formal approach to study the lexicon—the system for organizing words and meaning. The broad question we ask is how languages rely on a finite lexicon to express a growing and potentially infinite set of ideas. This tension often results in variation or extension of word meaning over time. Our research explores the computational mechanisms and knowledge that underlie this variation and its connections with word meaning variation across languages and lexical innovation. This line of inquiry has applications in natural language processing: it will enable machines to learn to process and communicate novel meaning beyond conventional language and adapt to changing communicative needs. The methods we develop for longitudinal text analysis can also inform sociomoral changes that are reflected in natural language use.

Sample publications