Stanley Donahoo, 2016 Gruener Research Travel Awardee

Stanley Donahoo

Ph.D. Student
Cognitive Science, GIDP Minor

Research Location

Berlin, Germany

On Site Research Dates

July 15 to August 15, 2016

Title of Research Project:

"Cross-linguistics aspects of implicatures"

Thanks to the Rapheal and Jolene Gruener Research Travel Award, I was able to maximise on my research experience abroad.  I was afforded the opportunity to conduct research and collaborate with scientists at the Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) in Berlin, Germany.  The German government has funded a major grant on pragmatic understanding through the ZAS, which is broadly occupied with finding solutions to better understand how human communication works. Specifically, the ZAS is a global leader in the research of experimental pragmatics.  Because the ZAS is university-independent, researchers come not only from several universities within Berlin and Germany, but it also attracts investigators from all over the world.  As such, I was exposed to multiple ways of thinking about questions that excite language researchers everywhere.  This resulted in new insights on behavioural data that I collected, which will be extended with EEG methodologies here at the University of Arizona Linguistics Department.

The ZAS provided a very active environment for my research in pragmatics.  A subdomain of linguistics, pragmatics concerns itself with producing cognitive models of how language production and understanding work in natural context. Implicatures are a major aspect of pragmatic knowledge, and refer to communicated content that is expressed, but not necessarily said in words.  Using the maze task, a behavioural paradigm developed in part at the UA, I could record reaction times of participants as they parsed a series of sentences.  These reaction times grant us a window into how language parsing unfolds in the mind of the participant, and enable us to contrast the processing of implicatures with other pragmatic entities.  

In my time there, the centre hosted several other visiting scholars, workshops, and reading groups, fostering an engaging atmosphere for the exploration of the intersection of work on language and mind—very useful to a better understanding of Cognitive Science, my GIDP minor.  My own research project benefitted from the unique resources of the ZAS, but my knowledge of various subfields of linguistics was also greatly enriched because of this collaborative approach.

This experience would not have been possible without the Gruener Award, and I am very grateful to have been selected.  I plan to use the data and experience towards applying to larger grants like Fulbright and DAAD for dissertation work on the project.