Knowing a language requires experience with its use, across social settings and communicative goals. We use our experience with language to build automatic connections among linguistic elements, and to associate linguistic information with other types of knowledge. We then draw rapidly on these connections as we produce and comprehend language. Speaking relies on complex processes of planning and articulation; comprehending language depends on recognizing, constructing, and anticipating linguistic forms. Each of these is shaped by social features of the language situation.
Experimental linguists study how language reflects and conveys social information, and how language is acquired, produced, perceived, comprehended, and represented in the mind. Experimental evidence can challenge or support theories of how a particular language is structured and how languages in general are structured, can help assess whether two related language varieties are separate languages or not, and can illuminate the ways in which languages change over time.
Research in experimental linguistics at UHM can be conducted in one of the LAE Labs or outside of the labs, including in fieldwork settings. We have a particular focus on languages spoken in Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia. Our research includes work in phonetics, sociolinguistics, laboratory phonology, experimental syntax, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition by children, second language learners, and heritage speakers.
Some of our experimental research is directed at questions of linguistic analysis or representation; other projects focus on the cognitive processes at play as a linguistic unit is produced or received. Experimental linguistics often involves co-authored projects. We collaborate and share laboratory resources with researchers in other departments at UH, as well as linguists, psychologists, and other scientists across the globe.