Rui P. Chaves
Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics :: University at Buffalo

Office: 604 Baldy Hall
Address:   609 Baldy Hall, Buffalo NY 14260–1030
Phone: (716) 645–0133

One of the most distinctive human traits is language: the ability to transfer complex information between minds through sequences of sounds or gestures. It remains unclear how exactly this is achieved, however. What kind of knowledge must speakers possess in order to produce and understand utterances? How is this linguistic knowledge organized, and how does it interact with other types of knowledge during sentence processing? Although human language is very complex, rich, and ambiguous, communication is nonetheless usually effortless and very rapid.
   My research focuses on sentence structure and its interface with semantics. I am particularly interested in one of the strangest hallmarks of human language: words that go together in meaning can often occur far away from each other (for example, as in sentences like This is [something] that most geneticists think about _ but never consider the implications of _, or in sentences like [Who] did you send photos of _ to _?). Such long-distance dependencies are subject to various constraints, and interact differently with different types of sentence to yield complex and theoretically challenging patterns. One of my goals is to parcel out which constraints are due to syntax, semantics, pragmatics and cognition, and arrive at more comprehensive models of the behavioral linguistic data.
   I am interested in grammatical theory, specially in formally explicit models of language that are consistent with what is known about human cognition and computational tractability. I have specialized in formally explicit constraint-based grammatical frameworks like HPSG and SBCG because their surface-driven nature is compatible with psycholinguistic models of language comprehension and production. The formal explicitness of surface-oriented theories also allows the implementation of efficient large-scale computational grammars, which are useful for language processing technology (such as question answering and automatic translation), and for grammar comparison and hypothesis testing. Before coming to UB, I was a visiting researcher at CSLI (2004–2007), and prior to that I was an assistant researcher at CLUL.

Selected publications
Chaves, R. P. 2014 "On the disunity of Right-Node Raising phenomena: extraposition, ellipsis, and deletion"
Language, 90(4), 834–886.

Chaves, R. P. and J. E. Dery 2014 "Which subject islands will the acceptability of improve with repeated exposure?"
In R. E. Santana-LaBarge (edt), 31st West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, pp. 96–106. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Chaves, R. P. 2013 "An expectation-based account of subject islands and parasitism"
Journal of Linguistics, 49(2), pp. 285–327.

Chaves, R. P. 2012 "Conjunction, cumulation and respectively readings"
Journal of Linguistics, 48(2), 297–344.

Chaves, R. P. 2012 "On the grammar of extraction and coordination"
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 30(2), 465–512.

Chaves, R. P. 2010 "Crash-free syntax and crash phenomena in model-theoretic grammar"
In Michael T. Putnam (ed.), Exploring Crash-Proof Grammars (Language Faculty and Beyond), pp. 269–298. John Benjamins.

Chaves, R. P. 2009 "Construction-based cumulation and adjunct extraction"
In Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Goettingen, Germany, pp. 47–67. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Chaves, R. P. 2008 "Linearization-based word-part ellipsis"
Linguistics and Philosophy, 31(3): 261–307.

Chaves, R. P. and D. Paperno 2007 "On the Russian hybrid coordination construction"
In Stefan Müller (ed.), Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, pp. 46–64. Stanford University.

Local events
  • Workshop on Understudied Languages and Syntactic Theory & The 21st International Conference on HPSG

  • Last modified: Dec 20 2014