Post Docs

Dr. Kensy Cooperrider Dr. Özlem Ece Demir-Lira Dr. Molly Flaherty Dr. Lilia Rissman
Dr. Catriona Silvey      
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Dr. Kensy Cooperrider

I am interested in the interplay of language, body, and culture in human cognition and communication. Co-speech gestures are my window of choice into this interplay. In previous work I have focused on: 1) how gestures and spoken language are co-organized at different levels of analysis, from the micro-level of the single word to the macro-level of discourse structure; and 2) what gestures can tell about culturally variable and universal aspects of conceptualization, both in concrete domains like space and in abstract domains like time. A new line of work examines the role of gesture in reasoning and learning. Is gesture an engine of conceptual change and, if so, by what mechanisms?

email: kensy@uchicago.edu

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Dr. Özlem Ece Demir-Lira

I am a developmental psychologist who takes a multi-faceted approach to the question of how parental background shapes children’s academic development. Although children from disadvantaged backgrounds fall behind their peers on their academic achievement, the mechanisms that produce this phenomenon remain unclear. To examine the pathways by which parental background impacts children’s academic outcomes, I use neuroimaging measures that reveal neural representations that support children’s academic performance and behavioral approaches that reveal children’s immediate home experiences. My research presents a model whereby parental background has dynamic, non-uniform, and specific effects on children’s academic outcomes.

email: ece@uchicago.edu

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Dr. Molly Flaherty

How are languages born? Why are languages the way that they are? Can specific characteristics of a person's language affect the way s/he thinks? I am interested in investigating these questions by looking to users of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL), a young Central American language. Because NSL is so young, it is the perfect place to study how languages emerge and evolve as their earliest users acquire and use them. Due to the wide range of ages at which Deaf Nicaraguans acquired NSL, Nicaragua is also an ideal place to ask what effects atypical language acquisition can have on cognition. My current research seeks to compare NSL signers to homesigners, deaf individuals who do not have sign language, in order to learn how language grows at its birth, and how its users grow along with it.

email: mflaherty@uchicago.edu

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Dr. Lilia Rissman

I investigate how language functions as a filter on the world: the tree outside my window is growing and blooming, at the same time that it is living, standing and providing shade. Each of these verbs constitutes a distinct semantic bundle: I am interested in understanding what bundles are possible in human language and how children learn these bundles. I am particularly interested how languages encode concepts of agency: meanings related to causation, goals and instrument use. I investigate these questions through psycholinguistic experiments with adults and children and formal semantic analysis. I have recently begun to address how such concepts are encoded in gesture and in homesign.

email: lrissman@uchicago.edu

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Dr. Catriona Silvey

I am interested in the relationship between word meanings and conceptual structure. When we learn the meaning of a word, do we simply map the word onto a concept we already possess? Alternatively, does the way we learn words and use them for communication cause our word meanings to be qualitatively different from our non-linguistic concepts? My work addresses these questions from the perspective of language evolution and language acquisition. Using artificial language experiments and corpus data, I investigate how the nature of words as culturally transmitted communicative conventions shapes the meanings we infer, and how these linguistically mediated concepts contribute to our cognition. My current work on the Language Development Project (https://ldp.uchicago.edu) examines how the acquisition and use of abstract relational words might support the development of higher-order thinking skills.

email: casilvey@uchicago.edu

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