We at the Cognitive Lexicon Laboratory take a computational approach to study the human lexicon—the fundamental organization of words and meanings. 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 meanings over time, leading to semantic change. Our research concerns the computational mechanisms and knowledge that underlie this variation and its connections with word meaning variation across languages, or semantic typology. This line of inquiry has potential applications to natural language processing: it will enable machines to learn to process and communicate novel meanings beyond conventional language and adapt to changing communicative needs. The methods we develop for historical text analysis can also inform sociomoral changes that are reflected in natural language use.

Research Areas

Semantic change; Semantic typology; Language and cognition; Computational methods for linguistic and social sciences.

Selected Papers