The Department of English and the Program in Linguistics welcome Dr. Jennifer Culbertson to the faculty in Linguistics. She begins her full-time position in the Fall 2012 semester.
Jennifer Culbertson received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins University in 2010. Before coming to George Mason, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Language Sciences at the University of Rochester.
Culbertson’s research investigates the extent to which constraints on language change can explain synchronic properties of grammars manifest, for example, in typological patterns and linguistic universals. Her work develops new approaches to addressing this question by deploying tools that specifically target the role of the learner in constraining how languages are acquired and thus how they change over time. The work addresses issues in syntax (e.g. word order) and morphosyntax (e.g. clitics, agreement), for which further development of these new tools has been necessary. In particular, Culbertson studies language learning and change using a novel Artificial Language Learning paradigm which exploits learners’ sensitivity to variation in the input. She uses probabilistic modeling techniques, enabling precise analysis of the role that learners’ biases play in shaping how that input data is translated into an acquired grammar, and hence the relation of these biases to typology and universals.
June 01, 2012