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Rachel Brown

About Rachel Brown

Doctoral Student interested in psycholinguistics, cognitive science, neurolinguistics, language development, and native american linguistics


I am currently working in the Language and Cognition Lab led by Dr. Bever and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab led by Dr. Vicky Tzuyin Lai. My project examines the interaction between context, plausibility, meaning and linguistic structure during sentence processing using behavioral and neurological methods. Specifically, I am working on how global and localized contextual information influences the reading of ambiguous multi-word phrases like mechanical pencil eraser (“eraser from a mechanical pencil” or “pencil eraser that is mechanical”). These phrases differ on whether they include animate nouns (e.g., mechanical pencil eraser vs clever lizard tail). They also contrast on whether they have a preferred interpretation. With clever lizard tail for example, “tail of a clever lizard” is preferred over “lizard tail that is clever”. I am testing whether the reading times and EEG signals differ in response to these different ambiguous phrases. Examining these stimuli will help answer:

·         When are contextual, plausibility, structural, and semantic information used and how independent are they?

·         What processes do EEG brain signals reflect during language processing including word-retrieval and combinatorial processes?

·          How does Animacy interact with context during language processing?

Using language as a model of how online ambiguity processing proceeds, this research also has implications outside of language-related research, for ambiguity exists in areas such as vision. This project has been funded by the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute and Graduate and Professional Student Council at the University of Arizona.

Research Interests

My research interests include psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, morphology, semantics, syntax, and language development.

Selected Publications

Brown, R., Chu, C.-Y., Hess, G, and Minai, U. (2014) “Assessing Preschool Children’s Knowledge of Compounds from a Logico-Semantic Perspective”. Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics. 35. 95-111.

Rachel Brown's picture

Contact Information

Rachel Brown
Doctoral Student in Linguistics and Cognitive Science


MA in Linguistics from the University of Arizona (Summer 2015)

Masters Thesis: "The Underlying Structure of Full and Clitic Pronouns in Hiaki"

Committee: Dr. Thomas Bever, Dr. Heidi Harley, Dr. Adam Ussishkin

BA in Linguistics from the University of Kansas with Highest Distinction, Departmental Honors and University Honors (May 2013)

Honors Thesis: “Assessing Preschool Children’s Knowledge of Compounds from Logico-semantic Perspective"

Advisers: Dr. Utako Minai and Dr. Robert Fiorentino

Dissertation Title

Relationship between meaning and structure during comprehension: Context effects on ambiguous phrases

Courses Taught

Stand-Alone Instructor

  • LING/PSY/SLHS 341 "Language Development" (online in 7.5 weeks)
  • LING/GER/RSSS 114 "Learning a Foreign Language" (in-person)
  • LING/PSYC 201 "Introduction to Linguistics" (in-person)
  • LING/ENGL 322 "Structure and Meaning of Words" (in-person)

Graduate Teaching Assistant

  • POL 150C2 "What is Politics?", Supervised by Dr. Noam Chomsky and Dr. Marvin Waterstone (in-person)
  • LING 322/ENGL 322 "Structure and Meaning of Words", Supervised by Dr. Tyler Peterson (in-person)
  • LING/PSYC 440 "Bilingual Mind", Supervised by Dr. Janet Nicol (online)
  • LING 150A1 “Mind, Self, and Language”, Supervised by Dr. Amy Fountain, (in-person, online, honors)

Teaching Assistant Coordinator

  • LING 150A1 “Mind, Self, and Language”, Supervised by Dr. Amy Fountain