I am a post-doctoral researcher within the Language in Interaction research consortium. I am based in the Neurobiology of Language department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. In 2020, I defended my PhD thesis at the Linguistics Department at the University of Maryland, College Park and from 2021-2022 I was a lecturer at the University of Groningen.

*** News ***
– I have been invited as a plenary speaker at the Manchester Forum in Linguistics, April 20-21, 2023, Manchester University. https://mfilconf.wordpress.com/
Anouk Dieuleveut and I were accepted for a talk on past tense modals at NELS 53, January 12-14 2023, Georg-August University Göttingen. https://nels53.uni-goettingen.de/.
– I accepted a new position as post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute, starting July 1st.

I’m interested in the syntax-semantics interface: Where and why does structure constrain meaning? I hereby take an interdiscplinary approach and always look for ways to incorporate my research for computer scientists, or educators, for instance. In my new position I am working on societal impact more generally: How can we translate recent knowledge on language and cognitive science into society?

My PhD focused on the syntax and semantics of modals. I worked on the following questions:

  • How are modals acquired? Together with Anouk Dieuleveut (UMD), Ailís Cournane (NYU), Valentine Hacquard (UMD) and Maxime Tulling (University of Montréal) I conducted two corpus studies on English and Dutch modals within the research project ‘Acquiring the language of possibility’. We find that modals are highly frequent in child-directed speech, but that the full range of interpretations is obscured. The intermediate report is in the paper ‘Learning what must and can must and can mean’.
  • How do modals behave cross-linguistically?  Besides investigating modals in highly studied languages like Dutch and English, I conducted  fieldwork on Georgian (a South-Caucasian language), where I studied a particular item that can mean both ‘must’ and ‘want’, depending on its syntax. The handout ‘The Georgian item unda – raising and control’ gives more details on this project.
  • How do modals change over time? Together with Nick Huang and Gesoel Mendes (UMD) I’m studying the syntactic and semantic change in willenyao and querer (the item expressing want in Dutch, Mandarin Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese, respectively). These items expressing desires have obtained a future meaning over time (compare ‘it wants to rain’, which is accepted by some English speakers). An intermediate report on this cross-linguistic pattern can be found in the poster ‘The future of want’.

Contact information
E-mail: annemarie.vandooren[at]mpi.nl