Skip to main content


Malleability of linguistic illusions

Research Achievements

Malleability of linguistic illusions

Dan Parker (Linguistics) has made potentially important discoveries about the malleability of linguistic illusions, drawing upon his combined IGERT training in linguistics, computer science, and the psychology of memory. Parker uses words like ‘ever’, and ‘any’ (‘negative polarity items’) as a model system for examining how language comprehension mechanisms target items specific items in memory. These words are acceptable only in sentences that contain a negative-like word in a structurally higher position. Previous research showed that comprehenders are susceptible to fleeting illusions of acceptability, due to the lure of negative words in structurally inappropriate positions, and have used this to argue for specific interference-prone memory architectures. Parker has shown that such effects can be reliably turned on/off, depending on when memory is probed. This provides evidence for changing encoding of linguistic material in memory.