My area of specialization is semantics, an interdisciplinary field located at the intersection of linguistics, cognitive psychology, logic, and philosophy. As a semanticist, I am interested in how natural languages construct complex meanings from small and simple pieces. This process involves intricate interactions between several cognitive components that semanticists are probing into using theoretical modeling to generate predictions and cross-linguistic investigations to establish parameters of variation. To tease apart linguistic and non-linguistic components in the construction of meanings, collaborations with cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have become increasingly important and fruitful. We might have reached a state where we actually understand each other.
For many years now, I have been investigating how natural languages organize talk about mere possibilities: what might have been, could be, or should be. Conceptualizations of what is possible, inevitable, likely, or desirable are highly systematic across diverse disciplines and cultures, and this is why this area of research has attracted the attention of mathematicians, logicians, psychologists, legal scholars, and philosophers for more than 2,000 years.
With Irene Heim of MIT, I am co-author of Semantics in Generative Grammar and cofounder and coeditor of the journal Natural Language Semantics. I am often called on to serve on advisory boards and panels for research institutes and initiatives, departments, grants, journals and conferences. In this way I can help develop directions for interdisciplinary research in semantics for the 21st century. I have also been active in developing innovative courses and teaching materials for both graduate and undergraduate classes.