Research

Lexical acquisition and processing

This series of studies asks how young children discover the meanings of new words, and how they set down and later retrieve their lexical representations for these words. I am particularly interested in verb learning, both because it poses special challenges for learning, and because linguistic context is known to play an important role in how they discover verb meaning. This work uses eye-tracking methods to discover how children interpret new words as the linguistic context unfolds. We study children acquiring English as well as languages with very different linguistic properties from English (e.g., Mandarin, Korean) to see how cross-linguistic differences affect the trajectory of acquisition.

Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. R. (In press). Let’s see a boy and a balloon: Argument labels and syntactic frame in verb learning. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics.

Syrett, K., Arunachalam, S. & Waxman, S. R. (In press). Slowly but surely: Adverbs support verb learning in 2-year-olds. Language Learning and Development.

Arunachalam, S. (2013). Two-year-olds can begin to acquire verb meanings in socially impoverished contexts. Cognition, 129, 569-573.

Arunachalam, S., Leddon, E. M., Song, H., Lee, Y., & Waxman, S. R. (2013). Doing more with less: Verb learning in Korean-acquiring 24-month-oldsLanguage Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, 20, 292-304.

Arunachalam, S., Escovar, E., Hansen, M. A., & Waxman, S. R. (2013). Out of sight, but not out of mind: 21-month-olds use syntactic information to learn verbs even in the absence of a corresponding event. Language and Cognitive Processes, 28, 417-425.

Waxman, S. R., Fu, X., Arunachalam, S., Leddon, E., Geraghty, K., & Song, H. (2013). Are nouns learned before verbs? Infants provide insight into a long-standing debate. Child Development Perspectives, 7, 155-159.

Choi, Y., & Arunachalam, S. (In press). Learning manner and path verbs from the Serial Verb Construction in Korean. In: Proceedings of the 37th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.

Arunachalam, S., Syrett, K., & Waxman, S. (2012). Can adverbs call attention to manner of motion for two-year-olds learning verbs? In: A. Biller, E. Chung, & A. Kimball (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 63-73.

Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. (2011). Grammatical form and semantic context in verb learning. Language Learning and Development, 7, 169-184.


Leddon, E., Arunachalam, S., Gong, H., Wang, L., & Fu, X. (2011). Noun and verb learning in Mandarin-acquiring 24-month-olds. In: Online Proceedings Supplement, 35th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.


Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. R. (2010). Meaning from syntax: Evidence from 2-year-olds. Cognition, 114, 442–446.


Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. R. (2010). Language and conceptual development. Wiley Interdisciplinary Review: Cognitive Science, 1, 548-558.


Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. R. (2010). Specifying the role of linguistic information in verb learning. In: K. Franich, K. Iserman, & L. Keil (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 11-21.

Arunachalam, S. (2008). Projectionism, Non-Projectionism, and the acquisition of argument structure. Presented at Verb Concepts: Cognitive Science Perspectives on Verb Representations and Processing, Montreal, Canada.

Choi, Y., Arunachalam, S., Song, H., Choi, Y., & Trueswell, J. C. (2009). Syntactic bootstrapping from the serial verb construction in Korean. Presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting.

Lexico-semantic/-syntactic representation and processing in adults

This work asks fundamental questions about semantic representation and processing. In one line of work, I explore a phenomenon common to many languages in which one can cancel the endstate of a telic perfective predicate, e.g., I ate the apple but didn’t finish it. Experimental studies on Hindi add new insight to what these predicates mean and what situations allow for endstate cancellation.

Arunachalam, S., & Kothari, A. (2011). An experimental study of Hindi and English perfective interpretation. Journal of South Asian Linguistics 4 (1), 27-42.

Arunachalam, S., & Kothari, A. (2010). Telicity and event culmination in Hindi perfectives. In: P. M. Bertinetto, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Verb 2010, Interdisciplinary Workshop on Verbs: The Identification and Representation of Verb Features, 16-19.

Kothari, A., & Arunachalam, S. (2009). Pragmatics and gradience in Hindi perfectives. Presented at the 28th South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable, Denton, TX.

Arunachalam, S., & Embick, D. (2005). Effects of verb class and frame frequency on processing. Presented at the 18th Annual CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, Tucson, AZ. (abstract)

Sundaresan, S., & Arunachalam, S. (2003). Negation in Tamil and issues of scope and NPI licensing. Presented at the 23rd South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable, Austin, TX.

Lexical representations in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

The semantic deficits that accompany Alzheimer’s disease are poorly understood. I am interested in what those deficits reveal about the organization of lexical knowledge, particularly for verbs.

Almor, A., Aronoff, J., MacDonald, M., Gonnerman, L., Kempler, D., Hintiryan,  H., Hayes, U., Arunachalam, S., & Andersen, E. S. (2009). A common mechanism in verb and noun naming deficits in Alzheimer’s patients. Brain and Language, 111, 819.

Aronoff, J., Gonnerman, L., Almor, A., Arunachalam, S., Kempler, D., & Andersen, E. (2005). Information content versus relational knowledge: Semantic deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia, 44, 2135.

Discourse and pragmatics

These studies focus on different languages and different phenomena, but most examine the interaction between the form of referring expressions in a discourse and processing considerations.

Almor, A., Arunachalam, S., & Strickland, B. (2007). When the creampuff beat the boxer: Working memory, cost, and function in reading metaphoric reference. Metaphor and Symbol, 22, 169193.

Arunachalam, S. (2005). Zero pronouns in Tamil and Malayalam. Presented at the 25th South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable, Urbana, IL.

Arunachalam, S. (2005). Narrative coherence in Bloomfield’s Menominee texts. Unpublished ms., University of Pennsylvania.

Arunachalam, S., Gould, D., Andersen, E., Byrd, D., & Naryanan, S. (2001). Politeness and frustration language in child-machine interactions. Proceedings of Eurospeech, pp. 2675-2678.