Overview of Research

The UCLA Linguistics Department focuses on the scientific study of language in all aspects. The fields represented include phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics, as well as the interdisciplinary areas of psycholinguistics, language acquisition, computational linguistics, and historical linguistics. The department has a strong emphasis on linguistic theory as well as on fieldwork and experimental study. Several laboratories are housed in the department: the Phonetics Laboratory, the Psycholinguistics Laboratory, the Language Acquisition Laboratory, and the Language Processing Laboratory.

In the 2021 QS World University Rankings, the department placed second worldwide.

Some recent developments in research include:

  • Jessica Rett has been collaborating with oncologists and philosophers to explore the meaning of the word ‘cancer’ as it’s used by physicians and as it’s understood by patients. Their goal is to determine how an appreciation of the difference between the two can be used to better inform patient treatment decisions and outcomes.
  • Yael Sharvit was awarded a faculty fellowship to investigate grammatical constraints on truth predicates with Colin Brown.
  • Harold Torrence, postdoctoral researcher Philip Duncan (University of Kansas) and students (Bertille Baron (Georgetown),  Kerri Devlin (UMass, now UCLA), Hironori Katsuda (UCLA),  Blake Lehman (UCLA), Travis Major (UCLA)) traveled to eastern Ghana in the summer of 2018 to conduct fieldwork with native speakers of endangered languages spoken in Ghana. Funded by an NSF project with Jason Kandybowicz (CUNY Graduate Center), they conducted fieldwork on Avatime and Ikpana, understudied Ghana-Togo Mountain languages, using elicitation, text collection, and video documentation.
  • Multiple faculty and graduate students are presenting their research at the 2021 Boston University Conference on Language Development, including Laurel Perkins, Megha Sundara, Victoria Mateu, Katya Khlystova, Adam Chong (UCLA PhD 2017), Adam Royer (UCLA PhD 2021), and Minqi Liu.
  • A number of faculty and graduate students have recently been working on ellipsis structures across languages. Nina Hyams, Victoria Mateu, and Minqui Liu have explored the acquisition of sluicing and sluicing-like structures in English (Mateu & Hyams, 2021) and Mandarin (Liu, Hyams, & Mateu 2020, to appear), while Jesse Harris, Vahideh Rasekhi and Marju Kaps have explored the processing of polarity ellipsis in Persian (Rasekhi & Harris, 2021) and Estonian (Kaps 2020, 2021).
  • Led by Hilda Koopman, several members of the department have been contributing to SSWL, a searchable database of the grammatical properties of over 300 languages across the world, with contributions from over 400 members.