I have recently finished my NWO Veni research project ‘Great expectations: Discourse markers of (counter-) expectation in sentence processing’. Languages provide us with means to acknowledge our interlocutor’s expectations in the form of discourse markers (DMs). For instance, when we say Maria is eigenlijk een man ‘Maria is actually a man’, we use eigenlijk to indicate that this utterance is not in line with the most likely expectation that someone called Maria is a woman. Theoretically, expectation-managing DMs are assumed to facilitate the interpretation process for the comprehender, and as such make communication more efficient. My project empirically investigated this theoretically assumed function of expectation-managing DMs. Using Visual World eye-tracking and EEG, I examined to what extent comprehenders use the expectation-managing information encoded in DMs to adjust their predictions about likely dialogue continuations during online language comprehension.
The OWLIE project
In a joint project with Monique Flecken we targeted how language-specific semantics guide core language processing mechanisms (i.e. predictive sentence processing) as well as visual processing in nonlinguistic tasks (e.g., picture matching, visual search). Our research focuses on a cross-linguistic contrast in the semantics of verbs describing locative states and caused motion (i.e., placement events), which by default encode the position of objects in Dutch and German (e.g. de fles staat/ligt op tafel ‘the bottle stands/lies on the table’) , but not in, for example, French and English (e.g. ‘the bottle is on the table’).
Varieties of Initial Learners in Language Acquisition (VILLA)
From October 2011 until October 2014 I worked in the international NWO-funded project Varieties of Initial Learners in Language Acquisition (VILLA). This project investigated the very first hours of foreign language acquisition under controlled input conditions. The target language was Polish; learners were absolute beginners with five different mother tongues (French, German, Dutch, English, Italian). We performed a large series of behavioral experiments at multiple levels of language (phonetic/phonological, lexical, morphosyntactic, pragmatic). As a follow-up we performed a longitudinal EEG study on L2 vocabulary learning by initial German learners of Dutch.
Grammaticalization and (Inter)Subjectification
In 2011 I was part of the research group VALIBEL – Discours et Variation at the Institute of Language and Communication of the Université Catholique de Louvain. In the PAI research project “Grammaticalization and (Inter)Subjectification” I combined quantitative corpus analyses with offline experimental research methods to investigate variation in the meaning and use of discourse markers in Dutch.
From 2006 to 2011 I was a Ph.D. student in the interdisciplinary NWO project ‘Animacy’. In my dissertation (2011) Who’s first and what’s next: animacy and word order variation in Dutch language production I combined quantitative corpus analyses with insights from theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics. I argued that an incremental view on language and sentences is crucial to account for word order variation patterns in Dutch.