Welcome to the lab!

Welcome to the Meaning and Modality (M&M) Laboratory at Harvard Linguistics! We are interested in understanding the uniquely human capacity for language, especially the ability to convey abstract, infinite, specific meanings across the multiple modalities for natural language, including but not limited to speech and sign. Our work spans the subfields of formal semantics, pragmatics, syntax, language acquisition, logic and psycholinguistics in an effort to understand the relationship between linguistic meaning, language mode, language development, and human cognition.


Latest News

Nozomi, Hao, Annemarie, and Kate at TISLR14

September 28, 2022
Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR) 14 was held this week in Osaka, Japan, in a hybrid format. Nozomi Tomita presented her poster "A pointing sign like fillers: One JSL user's discourse journey over time," Hao Lin was a coauthor on a talk with Valentina Aristodemo and Mirko Santoro on "Comparative constructions in sign language: A comparative study between LIS and CSL," and Kate Davidson presented a poster with Annemarie Kocab and (lab alum!) Dorothy Ahn on "Embracing optionality: pragmatic constraints on loci." It has been exciting to see so much inspiring sign linguistics research around the world at the first TISLR in Asia! 

Hayley at Sinn und Bedeutung

September 16, 2022
Hayley Ross presented the paper "Quantifying weak and strong crossover for wh-crossover and proper names" (with Gennaro Chierchia and Kate Davidson) at the 27th Sinn und Bedeutung conference in Prague.

Dr. Ricciardi!

August 31, 2022

Guiseppe Ricciardi defended his dissertation On the Linguistic Encoding of the Notion of Inference, which takes on the problem of epistemic modals from a new experimental and theoretical angle and makes the case for their encoding as evidentials (his committee was Kate Davidson, Ted Gibson, Susi Wurmbrand, and Manfred Krikfa). We're thrilled to hear that Giuseppe is taking up a position with Frontiers publishing upon graduation - huge congratulations, Giuseppe!!

Dr. Bryant!

July 29, 2022

Shannon Bryant defended her dissertation Lost in space: Pronoun choice in English locative prepositional phrases, which takes up one of the thorniest puzzles adjacent to Binding Theory, the distribution of reflexives and personal pronouns in locative prepositional phrases, through a theoretical syntactic and experimental semantic lens (her committee was Isabelle Charnavel, Kate Davidson, and Jesse Snedeker). Shannon is headed to Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science as a postdoc (check out her website here)- we're so excited for her future colleagues and students there. Huge congratulations, Shannon!! 

Congratulations to our graduates!

May 26, 2022
Huge congratulations to M&M lab members who celebrated their graduations this week, including Natalia Bermudez (AB '22), Joanna Alstott (AB '22), Josh Martin (PhD '22) and Ethan Wilcox (PhD '22)!

Shannon, Giuseppe, and Kate at ELM

May 20, 2022
Lecture hall with roughly 30-40 attendees in masks, woman presenting is shown on screen (hybrid conference)
Shannon Bryant, Giuseppe Ricciardi, and Kate Davidson recently visited UPenn to present short talks at Experiments in Linguistic Meaning 2. Shannon presented some of her dissertation work in the MM Lab on "Are they touching? Contact and pronoun choice in English prepositional phrases", Giuseppe presented joint work with Ted Gibson on "Are they touching? Contact and pronoun choice in English prepositional phrases" and and Kate presented joint work with Masoud Jasbi and Natalia Bermudez on "Logical connectives: An extendable experimental paradigm". Shannon and Kate even got to take the train to Philadelphia!

Dr. Martin!

May 5, 2022
Three people smiling: one white man with glasses and brown jacket, one white man with glasses and black jacket, white woman with black top and skirt and brown hair
Josh Martin defended his dissertation on Compositional routes to (non)intersectivity, which investigates how adjectival/nominal modification works on the morphosyntactic, syntactic, syntactic/semantic, and semantic/conceptual levels, by paying special attention to edge cases such as privative adjectives (his committee was Kate Davidson, Jonathan Bobalijk, and Gennaro Chierchia). We're very lucky that Josh will still be near Cambridge next year, in his new position working at Spotify's Boston offices. Huge congratulations, Josh!!

Dr. Wilcox!

May 4, 2022
Three people smiling, one white man with glasses and white shirt, one white man with white shirt and brown hair, white woman with pink shirt and brown hair
Ethan Wilcox defended his dissertation, titled Informative presupposition and accomodation (committee co-chaired by Roger Levy and Kate Davidson, with Gennaro Chierchia). Ethan's project involved extensive quantitative data collection on presupposition accommodation across wide varieties of contexts, and a theoretical proposal for what accounts for such variation in accommodation across triggers. Next year he'll be doing a postdoc at ETH in Zurich (check out his semantics and computational psycholing research on his website!). Huge congratulations, Ethan!!

Yuhan and Kate at CLS

April 27, 2022
Yuhan Zhang stands at a podium in front of a slide with pictures from the Disney movie Sleeping beauty (Aurore and a single prince, and then Aurore thinking about prince things)

Kate Davidson and Yuhan Zhang recently returned from Chicago to present at the 58th annual conference of the Chicago Linguistic Society: Yuhan presented her work with Kate on "Competing de dicto terms reduce de re acceptability" (pictured) and Kate presented an invited talk on "Semiotic distinctions in compositional semantics".

Josh to Spotify

April 2, 2022
Josh Martin (PhD class of 2022) accepted a job to start this summer as a User Research Analyst witb Spotify - huge congratulations!!! And lucky us, he'll be working at the Spotify offices right here in Boston!