Adam M. Morgan

PhD Candidate in Experimental Psychology
Language Production Lab
University of California, San Diego

CV (updated 3/19)



Artificial Language Learning
The world's 6000 languages have a surprising number of similarities in their grammatical structures. One common pattern is a contingency hierarchy: if some langauge has Property X, then it necessarily has Property Y. In this project, I teach subjects fake languages with Property X. Then, I ask them to produce sentences with Property Y. Many prominent theories predict that humans can only learn structures we have been exposed to. Contrary to this prediction, subjects in this study successfully produce Property Y despite never having been exposed to it.

Syntax in the Brain
Neuroimaging and electrophysiology have uncovered how phonetic representations are coded in the brain (check out this awesome paper), but we still don't understand syntax in the brain. In this line of research, Eric Halgren, Roger Levy, Vic Ferreira, Erik Kaestner, Meilin Zhan, and I use ECoG to uncover syntactic representations in the brain.

Individual Differences
Does every native speaker of English have the same grammar? In this project I demonstrate that there are as many versions of English grammar as there are speakers of English. This finding suggests that the grammar is probably not a set of abstract "rules" derived from experience. Instead, these rules are similar to phonemes: emergent properties of a lifetime of experience.

Resumptive Pronouns
In many languages, speakers produce pronouns that no one is sure whether they are grammatical. (Case in point.) Resumptive pronouns sound bad, but speakers still use them (see my 2018 paper with Matt Wagers). What does this mean for theories of syntax? Along with Aya Meltzer-Asscher, Julie Fadlon, Vic Ferreira, Titus von der Malsburg, Matt Wagers, and Eva Wittenberg, I am working on several projects which converge on the idea that the weird properties of resumptive pronouns result from cognitive limitations during speech.

Recent Publications



Inclusivity Door Signs