Language allows individuals to exchange complex information using sequences of sounds and gestures. 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 information during sentence processing? Although human language is complex and ambiguous,
speakers usually process language very rapidly and effortlessly, which suggests that linguistic knowledge may involve some
amount of probabilistic information.
My research aims to study the rules that link sentence structure to sentence meaning, and how they interact with other types of linguistic knowledge. I am particularly interested 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 questions 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 very complex patterns which have proven to be remarkably difficult to explain. In order to arrive at more comprehensive models of the behavioral linguistic data involving long-distance dependencies, I use corpora and controlled psycholinguistic experimentation to determine what is the division of labor between syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and cognition in such phenomena.
I have also focused on other topics, involving coordination, ellipsis, extraposition, and linearization.
More broadly, 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 constraint-based grammatical frameworks
like HPSG and SBCG because their surface-driven nature
is compatible with psycholinguistic
of language comprehension and production
here for more discussion, and see
for an example), and because
the formal explicitness of such surface-oriented theories allows the
implementation of efficient large-scale computational grammars, useful not only improving language
processing technology and benefiting society at large
(e.g. translation and question answering systems), but also for research purposes such
as grammar comparison, consistency checking, 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.
Chaves, R. P. 2015 "Evidence for Sentential Subject Constraint circumventions"
- Under review, pp. 37.
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 "On the grammar of extraction and coordination"
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 30(2), 465–512.
Chaves, R. P. 2012 "Conjunction,
cumulation and respectively readings"
of Linguistics, 48(2), 297–344.
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 Stefan Müller (ed.), Proceedings of the 16th
Head-Driven Phrase Structure
Grammar, Goettingen, Germany, pp. 4767.
Stanford: CSLI Publications.
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. 4664. Stanford University.
Andrew C. Wetta (2015). Construction-based Approaches to Flexible Word Order, University at Buffalo.
Dawei Jin (ongoing). Semantic-Pragmatic interface and Island Constraints in Chinese, University at Buffalo.
The 21st International Conference on
HPSG & Workshop on Understudied Languages and Syntactic Theory