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

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

Language is one of the most distinctive human traits. It 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 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 work has also focused on other topics such as coordination, ellipsis, 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. My research aims to develop cognitively plausible theoretical models informed by empirical data from corpora, psycholinguistic experimentation, and computational modelling. 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. Implementations 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.

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 "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 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: Apr 12 2015