Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Pierrehumbert, Janet B.
Location University of Oxford
Primary Field Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Field Computer and Information Sciences
 Election Citation
Pierrehumbert studies the architecture and dynamics of vocabulary acquisition and demonstrated that social factor influence what words people store in memory. ~
 Research Interests
Janet Pierrehumbert developed a model of the phonology and phonetics of English intonation that has been very influential in linguistics, psycholinguistics, and speech technology. She is currently working on the architecture and dynamics of lexical systems. She and her collaborators ask how individuals acquire vocabulary systems from linguistic experience, and how cognitive and social factors influence what people pay attention to, remember, and chose to produce. The research program involves large-scale analysis of corpora (ranging from speech recordings to on-line text, such as Wikipedia and Reddit); experiments on natural and artificial languages; and building and testing computational models. Results show that the use of statistical information is pervasive in the linguistic system, but also that people filter and regularize statistical information as they build abstract levels of representation. The group has demonstrated experimentally that social factors influence what examples of words people store in memory. Furthermore, social associations of words are readily learned, generalized to similar words, and available to introspection. In a longitudinal study of a regular sound change in New Zealand English, they found evidence for word-specific memories of fine phonetic detail as well as general effects of the phonology and of lexical competition. Using computational models, they have shown that a proper treatment of heterogeneity in the speech community is critical for understanding language change.

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