Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics 

Informed by both theoretical linguistics and cognitive psychology, our research in psycholinguistics is primarily concerned with how we use grammatical knowledge to guide sentence interpretation during language comprehension. Although much previous work in this area has focused heavily on English, our work is cross-linguistic in nature. We investigate how typological surface features map onto different and/or similar neuro/cognitive operations underlying sentence processing, and how they interact with general cognitive constraints. In the current projects, we investigate on-line bilingual sentence processing in Singapore. The language situation in Singapore is complex, with the coexistence of four official languages that are typologically all distinct: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Focusing on early bilinguals of English and other ethnic languages, we are particularly addressing the question of whether and how a bilingual's knowledge of one language affects processing of the other language.

(click to enlarge image)

Work is also being done in the area of Language and Cognitive Neuroscience using neuroimaging techniques. Topics of investigation include syntactic and semantic processing in Chinese, language comprehensive among Chinese-English bilinguals, and the relationship between language and color perception.

Selected Publications

LaPolla, Randy J. 2003. Why languages differ: Variation in the conventionalization of constraints on inference. In D. Bradley, R. J. LaPolla, B. Michailovsky & G. Thurgood (eds.), Language variation: Papers on variation and change in the Sinosphere and in the Indosphere in honour of James A. Matisoff, 113-144. Pacific Linguistics. Canberra: Australian National University, 2003. 

LaPolla, Randy J. & Dory Poa. 2002. Xinxi chuanda de xingzhi yu yuyan de benzhi he yuyan de fazhan (The nature of communication and language, and their influence on language development). Zhongguo Yuwen 2002.3 (May): 203-209.

Chan, A.H.D., Liu, H.L., Yip, V., Fox, P.T., Gao, J.H., & Tan, L.H. (2004). Neural systems for word meaning modulated by semantic ambiguity. Neuroimage, 22, 1128-1133.

Chan, A.H.D., Luke, K.K., Li, P., Yip, V., Li, G., Weekes, B., & Tan, L.H. (2008). Neural correlates of nouns and verbs in early bilinguals. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1145, 30-40.

Chan, A.H.D., Tan, L.H., Kay, P., Khong, P.L., Yip, L.K., & Luke, K.K. (2008). Language affects patterns of brain activation associated with perceptual decision. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 105, 4004-4009.

Weekes, B.S., Chan, A.H.D., & Tan, L.H. (2008). Effects of age of acquisition on brain activation during Chinese character recognition. Neuropsychologia, 46 (7), 2086-2090.

Siok, W.T., Kay P., Wang W.S., Chan, A.H.D., Chen, L., Luke, K.K., Tan, L.H. (2009). Language regions of brain are operative in color perception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106, 8140-8145.

Luke, K.K., Liu Ho-ling, Wai, Yo-yo, Wan Yung-liang, and Tan Lihai. (2002). The functional anatomy of syntactic and semantic processing in language comprehension. Human Brain Mapping 16(3): 133-145.