Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pedro Alcocer - Language Research in Brazil

Last August, Pedro Alcocer, third year PhD student in the Linguistics Department at UMD and second year fellow in the IGERT program, travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to run experiments that would shed light on how humans use memory in real time when comprehending language. This research can tell us more about how memory is structured and how search algorithms operate over that structure.

Pedro was hosted by the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro where he worked in the labs of Profs. Aniela Improta Fran├ža and Marcus Maia. During his five weeks in Rio - from August to September 2009 - he was accompanied by an undergraduate research assistant, Chris O'Brien from Michigan State University.

“Brazil was an excellent place to do this kind of research,” Pedro says, “because Brazilian Portuguese has a rather unique grammatical constraint on how it licenses null subjects that we can exploit to learn more about the structure of memory. Rio, in particular, was a good place to be because it is a center for psycholinguistic research in Brazil.”

Pedro’s trip was funded through the NFS-IGERT grant based in the Linguistics Department at UMD.

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