We aim to discover how a person's linguistic capacity is instantiated in the mind, what aspects are innate, how knowledge of a first language is acquired, and how language use is processed in the mind and brain.
Human beings share a capacity for language, unique to the species. This capacity guides the learning of language in children and constrains the character of the languages we come to have. To study it we pursue various sources of evidence. Among them are the grammars of individual languages; patterns of grammatical variation across languages; the development, normal and abnormal, of language in children; the mental processing of language in use; and the embodiment of language in the brain. But all these perspectives converge on a single natural object: the human language faculty, whose study unifies the work at Maryland Linguistics.
Research at our top-ranked department spans syntax, semantics, phonology, language acquisition, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics. Connections between these areas are strong, with theoretical, experimental and computational work typically pursued in tandem. A network of collaboration at all levels sustains a research climate that is both vigorous and friendly. Here new ideas develop in conversation, stimulated by the steady activity of our labs and research groups, frequent student meetings with faculty and regular talks by local and invited scholars.
We also play a leading role in the largest and most integrated language science research community in North America, which comprises 200 researchers in at least 10 departments and research centers. Linguistics enjoys active relations with computer science, philosophy, neuroscience and cognitive science, psychology, hearing and speech sciences, second language acquisition, human development, biology, the iSchool, electrical and computer engineering, second language education and culture and the Center for Advanced Study of Language, among others. A recent NSF NRT award (DGE-1449815, “Flexibility in Language Processes and Technology: Human- and Global-Scale”), following a prior NSF IGERT award (DGE-0801465, “Biological and Computational Foundations of Language Diversity”), has provided a unique means of strengthening this community through an interdisciplinary graduate program in language science. Maryland's language researchers thrive with the strong support of the university, which defines the study of language as a priority in its strategic plan. We also benefit from close ties to nearby institutions, including sign language researchers at Gallaudet University and neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The department enjoys unmatched facilities for linguistic research, organized as an open lab that all members of the department may share. Students and faculty have ready access to any combination of tools that they might need to pursue their research. Our hardware includes an EEG/ERP lab, two eye-tracking laboratories (ASL remote eye-tracker for child and adult studies; EyeLink 1000 eye-tracker for reading studies) and sound-proof space for auditory research. The Maryland Neuroimaging Center opened in 2011, features a state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facility, as well as MEG, EEG and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). The Language Acquisition Lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology for stimulus preparation, presentation and analysis using Head-Turn Preference, Habituation and Preferential Looking procedures, in addition to interactive tasks for older children. The lab is equipped to study children ranging from 2 months to 6 years of age and typically brings in over 500 participants each year. We benefit from a long-standing partnership with the Center for Young Children, an on-campus lab preschool with 120 children aged 3-6 years, plus other testing arrangements with local schools.
The University of Maryland, College Park, is located just outside of Washington D.C., four miles from the northeastern border and nine from the National Mall. Some of our students and faculty live in College Park or the nearby towns such as Hyattsville, Riverdale, University Park, Takoma Park or Silver Spring. Others live downtown and commute by Metro (subway) to the College Park Green Line station, a ride of only 15-20 minutes. Popular neighborhoods near the Green Line include Petworth, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan and U Street. The capital city provides a rich cultural life, with many venues for theater and music and the world-class (but free!) museums of the Smithsonian Institution. Our area also offers special resources for linguists. It is home to speakers of countless languages from around the world and home base to many national research agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Linguistic Society of America. We share the region with several other universities, including Georgetown, George Washington, Gallaudet, American and Catholic in D.C., plus Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.