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

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

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 language processing relies on 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 models of language comprehension and production (see here and here for more discussion, and see here 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.


Selected Publications
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"
Journal 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 International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Goettingen, Germany, pp. 47–67. 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. 46–64. Stanford University.

PhD Supervision

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.


Event Organization
  • The 21st International Conference on HPSG & Workshop on Understudied Languages and Syntactic Theory


  • Last modified: Aug 16 2015