Psychology of Language/Linguistics talks here in Feb 2018:

Explain me this
LIN program
Fri, Feb. 15 at 1:30-3pm, Green Hall 1-S-5
Adele E. Goldberg
Language users aim to convey their intended messages by selecting a combination of appropriate forms while conforming to the conventions of their community. To do this,  learners need to learn the way that forms and functions are conventionally related: we need to learn a rich network of words and multi-word constructions that are conditioned by a wide array of rich conceptual, contextual, and social factors.    Because we commonly encounter contexts that we have not witnessed before, we need to creatively extend familiar constructions for use in new contexts.  I will argue that regularizations, conservative learning, overextensions,  L2 errors and creativity  all stem from the same process: failing to access the best (combination of) constructions and therefore using a  “good-enough” option.


Pulling the Plug on Some Criticisms on Argument Structure Constructions
Mon Feb 25, 4:00 Peretsman-Scully Hall Rm 101
(Psych building, ground level, straight ahead from the main doors)
Remi van Trijp
Sony Computer Science Laboratories Paris

Quite a number of linguists consider argument realization – or the way in which verbs combine with their arguments to form sentences – as the bread and butter of contemporary linguistics; the battlefield on which linguistic theories survive or perish. It is therefore not surprising that the constructional approach to argument structure (Goldberg 1995, 2006, 2019) gave the starting signal to an intense debate between the well-established lexicalist approach and accounts based on argument structure constructions (Boas, 2008a,b; Croft, 2003; Goldberg, 2006, 2013; Goldberg & Jackendoff, 2004; Iwata, 2008; Kay, 2005; Kay & Michaelis, 2012; Levin & Rappaport Hovav, 2005; Müller, 2006; Müller & Wechsler, 2014a; Nemoto, 1998; van Trijp, 2015).

Some of the debating points involve the representational and algorithmic properties of constructions, which require a computational model before they can be settled. This is true for the following recurrent criticisms:

  • The constructional analysis lacks proper formalization, so it is difficult to predict the unintended consequences of a proposal (Müller & Wechsler, 2014b);
  • The constructional approach overgenerates and licenses unacceptable sentences such as *He bragged her to sleep (example 17b from Kay, 2005), and the proposed solutions are computationally unviable (Yang 2015);
  • The constructional account misses important generalizations such as the relation between Active and Passive voice (Müller, 2018);
  • The constructional account is essentially a phrasal (or plugging) approach, and 75 years of theoretical linguistics have taught us that lexicalist grammars have important benefits over phrasal approaches (Müller & Wechsler, 2014a, see particularly section 4).

In this presentation, I will first demonstrate that all four criticisms are unwarranted through a processing model for argument structure constructions in Fluid Construction Grammar (Steels 2011). The second part of the presentation will take us through the streets of Paris and call upon the help of Hollywood stars Ellen Page, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan in pursuit of a deeper understanding of what constructions are, and what they can do.


Critical periods in language, cognitive development, and massive online experiments
Thurs Feb 28, 4:30 Peretsman-Scully Hall Langfeld Lounge 2nd floor
Josh Hartshorne
Psychology, Boston College

A flurry of studies — both from my lab and others — have upended our understanding of language development and its relationship to cognitive development. Only a few years ago, it was widely accepted that cognitive abilities develop during childhood and adolescence, with cognitive decline beginning at around 20 years old for fluid intelligence and in the 40s for crystalized intelligence. The obvious outlier was language learning, which appeared to begin its decline in early childhood. However, the ability to collect large-scale datasets has brought into sharp relief patterns in the data that were previously indiscernible. The fluid/crystalized intelligence distinction has broken down: at almost any age between 20 and 60, some abilities are still developing, some are at their peak, and some are in decline (Hartshorne & Germine, 2015). Most surprisingly, evidence suggests that the ability to learn syntax is preserved until around 18 (Hartshorne, Tenenbaum, & Pinker, 2018). These findings are deeply problematic for every extant theory of language acquisition. They also appear very robust. In this talk, I review recent published findings, present some more recent unpublished findings, and try to point a path forwards. I also discuss the prospects for massive online experiments not just for understanding cognitive development, but for understanding cognition in general.


Linguistic Society of America was just held in the greatest city in the world. Sammy Floyd (Polysemy) and Karina Tachihara (L2 and competition) gave outstanding talks; also Libby Barak presented a great poster (modeling of polysemy).  Many other great talks as well, with a special shout out to plenaries by Penny Eckert (sociolinguistics) and Jennifer Cole (prosody and meaning)!

Just back from the first MaCala Conference jointly sponsored by Penn State’s great Language Acquisition and Language Sciences departments!

250 people gather for Construction Grammar conference in Paris, July 2018

Picture from BabyLab party at Casey’s!  Sad farewell to Carolyn Mazzei and Dr. Jessie Schwab.  And welcome to new lab manager, Juliana Trach!

Goldberg to give plenary at the 4th Usage-Based Linguistics Conference in Tel Aviv, July 1-3.


Graduation day yesterday at Princeton.  Congratulations to Jessie Schwab on her PhD!  To Sarah Reid and Charlotte Jeppson on their undergrad degrees! Also congratulations to Charlotte for winning the departmental prize in clinical work for her project on Polysemy learning in children with ASD (with Sammy Floyd), and to Jessie for her university and departmental teaching awards!   Congratulations to Rebecca Blevins for winning a junior Howard Crosby Prize! Really heart-warming to see these and many other former wonderful students graduate, ready to take the world by storm!

Congratulations to Libby Barak on organizing the first and second workshops aimed at encouraging women & URMs in the field of Natural Language Processing: WiNLP.   It’s held  as part of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) conference and was in Vancouver last year and New Orleans this year:

Sammy Floyd and Libby Barak presented a poster on Modeling Differences in the Acquisition of Polysemy and Ambiguity at WiNLP.

Goldberg awarded the Fillmore Professorship and will be teaching at the LSA’s Linguistic Institute in July 2019.

Get to Know Your Instructors: Adele Goldberg

Goldberg visited U of Oregon for Ling colloquium, April 26, 2018.  Wonderful department there, with special shout out to Spike Gildea’s music and party.

EVOLANG in Toruń, Poland. April 16-20, 2018 (Goldberg gave plenary: “Children tend to regularize and are conservative for the same reasons” (Chapter 6 of Explain me This!). Fascinating talks by Jerome Lewis, Karen Emmorey, Wendy Sadler (in memory of Irit Meir), Chris Knight, Jenny & Kenny and their many Edinburgh students. Kudos to the organizers, Slawomir Wacewicz, Zywiczynski, Przemyslaw!

Crystal Lee (Rochester BCS ’18)  is coming as a grad student in 2019 to  the BabyLab and Language lab, after a fellowship at the MPI in Nijmegen working with Caroline Rowland!

Another excellent CUNY sentence processing conference (this time in Davis, CA).  Highlights included Marta Kutas (UCSD!) on her groundbreaking ERP work and Andrea Martin (MPI) and Ellen Lau (UMD) on exciting future directions for  ERP/EEG work.  Also super cool work on how the brain tracks referents as they change over time from Gerry Altmann’s lab.

Karina Tachihara presented a poster, “L2 speakers know what they’ve heard, but they don’t take competing alternatives into account the way native speakers do” at CUNY, March, 2018.

Jayden Ziegler (Harvard; Princeton ’14) presented a poster “Locative priming of passives is due to shared BY” (JZ, AEG, Jesse Snedeker) at CUNY,  March, 2018.

Laura Janda and Tore Nesset are visiting from University Tromsø!  Welcome Laura and Tore! Janda presents,  Are paradigms learnable? A view from Russian. Oct 6 1:00 in PSH 311.

Goldberg taught PSY/LIN 309, The Psychology of Language Fall ’17 (60 students).

Dinner at Adele’s in Nov.  Come as someone else:

Congratulations to Amy Freyberger for her exceptional senior thesis evaluating the SiLOS social cognition software for children with ASD. And a shout out to Chris Dudick and Bernie Mullen for developing the software.

Highly recommend Pim Levelt’s History of Psycholinguistics for an enlightening, engaging overview of our field.  No, it did not begin in 1951 (or 1957 or 1965)–meet the great 18th and 19th Century minds who thought deeply about the psychology of language.

A regular afternoon in psychology at Princeton:

Fun retirement dinner for Edwin Williams at Luca’s restaurant in Summerset with Laura Kalin, Florian Lionnet, Christiane Fellbaum, and two cakes.

Spring ’17

Jessica Schwab presenting poster on children’s probability boosting in production but not comprehension and Carolyne MaazeI presenting poster on the Blowfish effect in children at SRCD!

Exciting week at Spring AAAI Symposium  on Computational Construction Grammar and NL Understanding. Libby Barak and Adele both presenting. March 27-29, Stanford.

Amazing CUNY conference organized by Ted Gibson at MIT.

Back from a collaboration in Erlangen, Germany with Prof. Thomas Herbst of Valency Theory,  sponsored by the Humboldt foundation.  Began work on Construction Fragments, and ITEMCX (items-in-constructions).

The book is taking shape: Explain me this: Creativity, Competition and the Partial Productivity of Constructions. Princeton University Press.

Goldberg will teach PSY 309, Psychology of Language.

Fall ’16

Fun and interesting visit to Google where I found many old friends and previous students. Yes, I took the slide.

Fabulous retirement party for George Lakoff in Berkeley!  Packed room, much laughter, a few tears, many testimonials about how George changed each of our lives, Haj Ross reminiscing about the early days of syntax.

Just back from an interesting workshop on verbs and argument structure at Boston College (organized by Josh Hartshorne). Oct 21st.

Goldberg to teach a freshman seminar, The Word. Tuesdays 1:30-4:20.

Summer ’16

Conventional metaphors in longer passages evoke affective brain response.  Just out in NeuroImage.

Spring ’16

Congratulations to psychology seniors Matthew Barouch, Jalisha Braxton, and Danielle Ellis, and to linguistic seniors Nick Tippenhauer and Ronan O’Brien on graduating!  And a special congratulations to Matthew for winning the George Miller prize in Cognitive Science for his publication-worthy senior thesis work!

4/6-7/16: Tanner Lectures at the Center for Human Values by Robert Boyd  (Culture Matters: the roots of human uniqueness).

Exciting talks by both Mike Frank  and Thalia Wheatley.

Wojciech Lewandowski, a postdoc in Copenhagen is visiting us for the next two months. Welcome Wojciech!

Goldberg is teaching PSY 309, Psychology of Language, using Julie Sedivy‘s exceptional new textbook, Language in Mind.

Great trip to LSA in DC.  Talks by Marianne Mithun, Jack DuBois, John Rickford, Betty Birner, and others made for a very interesting and fun weekend.

Goldberg awarded a Humboldt Research Award and spoke at the Humboldt Award ceremony in March in Bamberg, Germany.  Will be hosted by Thomas Herbst (Erlangen  University) and Friedemann Pulvermueller (Freie University)

Fall ’15

The University of Birmingham has made offers to both Florent Perek  and to Bodo Winter.

Psychology and Cognitive Science at Princeton have new looks!
November 17th: Kenny Smith and November 18th: Hugh Rabagliati both from University of Edinburgh’s Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences will be visiting Princeton.


Just finalized a paper on anaphoric one (as in, this is a good one!) with dear friend Laura MIchaelis for a special issue of Cognitive Science devoted to last year’s Rumelhart Prize winner, Ray Jackendoff. [pdf]

Visit Bodo Winter’s new Data Goldmine website that contains information and links to hundreds of corpora and databases–incredibly useful:

Very interesting new paper relating Schema Theory in music to construction grammar from Northwestern here.

Libby Barak will visit us from U of Toronto next year to work on modeling work.  Welcome Libby!

Summer ’15

Just returned from the fabulous Linguistic Institute at the University of Chicago, where  I got to teach 50+ wonderful graduate students and visiting scholars from all over the world and sit in on half a dozen great courses there.  Kudos to the organizers!

Goldberg is invited to visit Paris in 2016 for a series of lectures through the International Chair program: Empirical Foundations of Linguistics: data, methods, models.

Finished up a little review of Vyv Evans’ The Language Myth, requested by Language. [pdf]

Congratulations to undergrads Daisy Lopez for graduating with high honors and to Jessica Hao for graduating with highest honors! And also to Jessica for winning the George A. Miller prize in Cognitive Science!

Goldberg to serve on LSA’s Nominating Committee 2016-2019.  (which I believe means I get to nominate others to actually do things).

Neural systems involved in processing novel linguistic constructions and their visual referents. Matthew A. Johnson, Nick Turk-Browne, & AE Goldberg. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience.

Jessica Hao will be leaving our group after 4 years as an RA to attend medical school at Washington University. Congrats, Jess!

Stefan Gries (UCSB) taught an excellent week-long course on mixed model statistics in May.

Spring ’15

Goldberg is on sabbatical, working on a new book, Explain me this: how we learn what not to say. To be published by Princeton University Press.

Re: a-adjectives that resist appearing attributively (?? the afraid boy):  BoydGoldberg2011; Bruening’s blog;  response to BrueningYang(2015);  Our reply to to Yang is here: pdf.

Judgment evidence for statistical preemption: It is relatively better to vanish than to disappear a rabbit, but a lifeguard can equally well backstroke or swim children to shore. C Robenalt & AE Goldberg.  2015, in Cognitive Linguistics.

Generalizing beyond the input: the functions of the constructions matter. F Perek & AE Goldberg.2015, in Journal of Memory and Language. 

Goldberg has joined fabulous Psychology Department at Princeton full time.

Introduction of Emergent Communication and Language Sciences group at Princeton.

Carol Madden Lombardi (CRNS) visit Jan ’15.

Florent Perek visit Jan ’15.

Fall ’14 

Michael Arbib (USC, CS) & Maria Pinango (Yale, LIN) visit Oct 23-24, 2014.

Goldberg taught LIN/PSY Language Acquisition course Fall ’14. TTh 11-12:30.

Workshop on language processing Oct 11-12, 2014.

ETS workshop on the Lexicon Oct 17-18.

Sweet!  Conventional taste metaphors activate gustatory and emotion brain areas more than carefully matched literal controls: (Citron & Goldberg, JoCN 2014)

Luc Steels  (VUB AI lab) visiting Sept 24, 2014

Casey Lew-Williams has joined the psychology faculty!  Casey!

Spring ’14

Congratulations to David Abugaber for winning the extremely prestigious Gates Cambridge Fellowship AND an NSF fellowship. David will be heading to Cambridge after graduating to earn a masters in psycholinguistics.

We are very much enjoying having Florent Perek with us from Freiburg U., and Cotie Long from Indiana University.

We have moved to the new Peretsman-Scully (P-SY) building.   Goldberg’s office is #327.

Goldberg’s Einstein Fellowship from Berlin is renewed for another two years,  2013-2014!  The fellowship offers generous funding for travel from Princeton to Berlin for short-term stays, as well as a postdoc and student based at Freie U. in Berlin.

Appreciation goes to Haibu Wu for translating Constructions at Work into Chinese for Peking University Press (Dec, 2013).

Goldberg is elected a lifetime Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America 2014.