I study language. More specifically, I study the mental representations that allow us to make sense of the language we are exposed to, and how those representations develop across the lifespan.
My more recent work, with Cindy Fisher at University of Illinois, investigates the mechanisms of “syntactic bootstrapping”: the process by which infants and toddlers use the structure of the sentences they hear to develop hypotheses about what unknown words can mean. If a toddler overhears someone mentioning a boy blicking a dog, for instance, will she understand that blicking describes an event between two participants (one of which can be a boy and the other of which can be a dog)? And just how abstract might these fragile structural representations be?
Adults are excellent at allowing contextual information in the linguistic and physical environments to drive their interpretations of sentences and discourses. But what about children? In a second line of work, I am investigating the emergence of this ability in preschoolers. How does manipulating the context in which a sentence was uttered alter the way it is represented by children?
Before I came to University of Illinois, I was advised by Drs. Gail McKoon and Roger Ratcliff at Ohio State. My work at OSU again focused on language comprehension across the lifespan. My work with adults (aka, the experts) included a study on the lexical representations of verbs, (e.g., what information is accessed when we read hit or break, McKoon & Love, 2012); the processing consequences readers experience when confronted with information that cannot immediately be understood within the context of a story (e.g., a new character whose role is unclear, Love, McKoon, & Gerrig, 2010, Gerrig, Love, & McKoon, 2009); and the effects of text length and engagement on pronoun resolution (Love & McKoon, 2011).
I also worked with school-age children and older adults at Ohio State, measuring performance in simple language comprehension tasks across the lifespan. Comparisons across groups that vary across multiple dimensions are not easy, so I also learned a bit of cognitive modeling to help sort out relevant differences (e.g., word recognition ability, associative memory for sentence elements) from less relevant ones (Ratcliff, Love, Thompson, & Opfer, 2012)
Finally, I recently completed my first work on language production–field work no less! With collaborator Abby Walker, I investigated topic effects on sports fans’ speech. We interviewed local fans of English Premier League football (soccer) about both their favorite soccer team and their favorite American football team. We found that fans (particularly our English fans, who had more exposure to both dialects) were more /r/full (“American sounding”) when discussing American football than when discussing soccer (Love & Walker, in press).
You can visit the McKoon and Ratcliff lab website here.
And reach Cynthia Fisher’s lab here.
Love, J. & Walker, A. (in press). Football vs. football: Effect of topic on /r/ realization in American and English sports fans. Language and Speech.
Ratcliff, R., Love, J., Thompson, C. A., & Opfer, J. (2012). Children are not like older adults: A diffusion model analysis of developmental changes in speeded responses. Child Development, 83, 367-381.
Love, J. & McKoon, G. (2011). Rules of engagement: Incomplete and complete pronoun resolution. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 874-887.
McKoon, G. & Love, J. (2011). Verbs in the lexicon: Why is hitting easier than breaking? Language and Cognition, 3, 313-330.
Love, J., McKoon, G., & Gerrig, R. J. (2010). Searching for Judy: How small mysteries affect narrative processes and memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 790-796.
Gerrig, R. J., Love, J., & McKoon, G. (2009). Waiting for Brandon: How readers respond to small mysteries. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 144-153.