Language is one of the most distinctive human traits. It consists of the ability to transfer complex information from one mind to another using sequences of sounds or 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 knowledge during sentence processing? Although human language
is very complex, rich, and ambiguous, communication is nonetheless usually effective, effortless and very rapid.
My research focuses on sentence structure and its interface with semantics.
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 complex patterns which have proven to be remarkably difficult to characterize theoreticaly.
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.
My research has focused on other phenomena as well, such as coordination, ellipsis, and linearization,
and I often combine theoretical research with other methodologies such as corpus data,
psycholinguistic experimentation, and computational implementations.
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 models of language comprehension and production, and because
the formal explicitness of such surface-oriented theories allows the implementation of efficient large-scale computational grammars. Such implementation are useful not only for language processing technology (e.g.
question answering systems), but also for research purposes like consistency checking, hypothesis testing and grammar comparison.
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 "Conjunction,
cumulation and respectively readings"
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. 4767.
Stanford: CSLI Publications.
Chaves, R. P. 2008 "Linearization-based
- Linguistics and Philosophy, 31(3): 261307.
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