Construction of cognitive categories through language
I am interested in understanding the role that language plays in cognitive categorization processes. The most recent studies on this topic show that categories are created and interpreted in a context-dependent way and verbalization is a crucial dimension in which, and through which, the construction of categories takes place. I therefore analyze the linguistic strategies that speakers use to anchor the construction of categories to the context and to refer to sets starting from specific examples.
The range of relevant phenomena is wide and includes exemplification, list constructions, general extenders, reduplication, associative and similar plurals, the derivation of collectives, focus markers, connectives, discourse vagueness, non-exhaustivity.
I integrate a typological-comparative perspective with three complementary methodologies: a corpus-based methodology of discourse analysis, a diachronic study on the origins of the constructions under examination and a psycholinguistic approach to the most strictly cognitive questions.
Projects in progress on these themes: I coordinate the SIR project (RBSI14IIG0) "LEADhoC - Linguistic expression of ad hoc categories", financed by the Ministry of Education, University and Research.
-> Go to the project website: www.leadhoc.org
The relationship between logic and natural languages
I am interested in the relationship between logic and natural languages, with particular attention to connectives. Starting from Aristotle, a parallelism has been observed between the logical connectives 'and', 'or' and 'if' and the equivalents in natural languages. A cross-linguistic view and an in-depth analysis of corpora show, however, that this equivalence shows problems, and the relationship between logic and natural language is anything but predictable and is not universal.
The so-called conjunctions often encode functions that go beyond the simple relationships between entities: they codify the closure or opening of the set of elements (exhaustive vs. non-exhaustive connective), the attitude of the speaker towards what she says (modality epistemic) or towards its interlocutor (discursive and pragmatic functions).
On this topic, I have an on-going collaboration with Mira Ariel at the University of Tel Aviv (funded by ISF), and a project on logical connectives in natural languages.
Phenomena related to this research topic: interclausal connection, coordination, and subordination, the functions of connectives in discourse, diachronic paths of connectives, semantics/pragmatics of connectives, constructional approaches to inter clausal relations.
Subjectivity and intersubjectivity: discoursive signals and modalities
I also deal with modal brands and discursive signals, both from a synchronic and a diachronic point of view. I am interested in the intralinguistic variation of Italian, which I investigate through the analysis of corpora, with particular attention to the speech.
Converging evidence: towards an integrated methodology for linguistic research
I try to be able to carry out my research in a converging evidence paradigm, starting from the assumption that, given an initial research question, answers should be looked for in different data. Therefore I am integrating a typological methodology (selecting broad samples of languages) with diachronic, corpus-based and psycholinguistic research.