Maria Polinsky

LSA 129: Syntax and information structure at the interface

Maria Polinsky is Professor of Linguistics and Head of the Language Processing Lab at Harvard University. Her research interests include language universals and their explanation, comparative syntactic theory, the expression of information structure in natural language, and experimental approaches to syntax. She has worked on languages as diverse as Austronesian and languages of the Caucasus. In this research she has established unusual patterns of grammar, which pose significant challenges to linguistic theory. For the past several years, Polinsky's research has also included issues of incomplete language acquisition, which occurs when children switch from their heritage language to the dominant language of their society without having fully mastered the first language. She argues that this incomplete acquisition of what would have been a mother tongue may shed light on psycholinguistic processes distinct from those seen in normal language acquisition. Her work on incomplete acquisition combines the insights of theoretical linguistics with the new experimental methodologies explored by linguists as they move closer to cognitive science.

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