What I do

My research focuses on how we mentally store and manipulate linguistic structures, and how our tacit knowledge of grammar helps out with moment-by-moment language understanding. I am amazed at our ability to acquire, use, and understand language so easily. I want to figure out how language is stored and processed mentally to better understand what makes language come to us so easily, and why it occasionally fails us. I’ve been chiseling away at these issues by studying linguistic illusions, which are cases where people are temporarily fooled into thinking an ill-formed sentence is actually well-formed. As it turns out, linguistic illusions reveal how hierarchical representations are dynamically constructed in real time, and how they change as the sentence unfolds. I have also investigated issues relating to the processing of ellipsis structures and syntactic prediction.

Part of what makes this work both exciting and challenging is figuring out how to relate the fine-grained details of linguistic computation (i.e., the nuts and bolts) with the big picture issues concerning the relationship between the mental grammar and cognitive architecture (i.e., the bird’s eye view).

Why I do it

Solving the problem of how we encode and manipulate linguistic structure is important for several reasons. First, it will help us understand why speaking and language understanding is generally so successful. The fact that language processing feels so easy implicates some very sophisticated mechanisms under the hood. Second, if we understand how these mechanism work when the system is functioning well (i.e., in normal populations), we’re in a much better position to understand what’s going on when things go wrong, such as with language impairments and other health- or education-based problems.


Parker, D. (2019a). Cue combinatorics in memory retrieval for language processing. Cognitive Science, 43, 1-30. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. (2019b). Two is not always better than one: Modeling evidence for a single structure-building system. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3, 1-27. [pdf | data + code]

Schlueter, Z, Parker, D., Lau, E. (2019). Error-driven retrieval in agreement attraction does not lead to misinterpretation. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. 1-15. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. & An, A. (2019). Interference in Language Processing Reflects Direct-Access Memory Retrieval: Evidence from Drift-Diffusion Modeling. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. (2018). A memory-based explanation of antecedent-ellipsis mismatches: New insights from computational modeling. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3, 1-27. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. & An, A. (2018). Not all phrases are equally attractive: New evidence for selective agreement attraction effects in comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. 1-16. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. 2017. Processing multiple gap dependencies: Forewarned is forearmed. Journal of Memory and Language, 97, 175-186. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D., Shvartsman, M., & Van Dyke, J. A. (2017). The cue-based based retrieval theory of sentence comprehension: New findings and new challenges. In L. Escobar, V. Torrens, & T. Parodi (Eds.) Language Processing and Disorders (pp. 121-144). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. [pdf]

Parker, D. & Phillips, C. (2017). Reflexive attraction in comprehension is selective. Journal of Memory and Language, 94, 272-290. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. & Lantz, D. (2017). Encoding and Accessing Linguistic Representations in a Dynamically Structured Holographic Memory System. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 51-68. [pdf | code]

Parker, D. & Phillips, C. (2016). Negative polarity illusions and the encoding of hierarchical representations in memory. Cognition, 157, 321-339. [pdf | data + code]

Parker, D. & Lantz, D. (2016). Encoding and Accessing Linguistic Representations in a Dynamically Structured Holographic Memory System. In D Reitter & F. E. Ritter (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM), pp. 93-99. The Pennsylvania State University. Recipient of award for outstanding paper. [pdf; Note: this paper is superseded by the 2017 topiCS article of the same title]

Parker, D., Lago, S., & Phillips, C. (2015). Interference in the processing of adjunct control. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-13. [pdf | data + code]

Phillips, C. & Parker, D. (2014). The psycholinguistics of ellipsis. Lingua, 151, 78-95. [pdf]

Chow, W-Y., Lago, S., Barrios, S., Parker, D., Morini, G., & Lau, E. (2014). Additive effects of repetition and predictability during comprehension: Evidence from event-related potentials. PLoS ONE, 9, 1-11. [pdf]

Parker, D. (2011). Which-phrases reconstruct? A syntactic investigation of D-linked wh-movement. In D. Baily & V. Teliga (ends.), Proceedings of the 39th Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL). pp. 207-220. Fresno, CA: California State University. [pdf]

Parker, D. (2011). At the interfaces: Deriving and interpreting focus and anaphora in VP-ellipsis. In S. Lima, K. Mullin, & B. Smith (eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS). pp. 585-596. University of Massachusetts, GLSA. [pdf]

Parker, D. & Seely, T. D. (2010). MaxElide and its domain of application. Extended abstract from talk given at the 85th Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting. [pdf]

Xie, Y., Aristar-Dry, H., Lockwood, H., Thompson, J., Parker, D., & Cool, B. (2009) Language and location: A map annotation project – A GIS-based infrastructure for linguistics information management. In Proceedings of the International Multiconference on Computer and Information Technology. pp. 305-311. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). [pdf]

Parker, D. & Cool, B. (2008). Computational approaches to mapping and visualizing language data. In Proceedings of the 5th Midwest Computational Linguistics Colloquium (MCML). Michigan State University. [pdf]