cognitive linguistics, metaphor, metonymy, multimodal communication, distributional semantics, corpus linguistics
The representation of of abstract words
How are abstract and concrete concepts represented in the mind? What role does language play in determining the content of such representations?
Where a concrete concept (banana) can be represented in the mind through the mental image of its referent, or through a series of semantic and perceptual properties related to its referent (color, shape, flavor, etc.), an abstract concept (freedom) does not denotes a tangible referent that can be experienced through the five senses. What kind of information is then codified in its mental representation?
In my research, I deal with the analysis of abstract concepts using computational methods (distributional, corpus-based) and psychological investigations (e.g. collection of semantic properties elicited by speakers).
Understanding the metaphor in native speakers and learners
How are the metaphorical and literal meanings of verbs processed, in conventionalized expressions such as devouring a book (metaphorical) and devouring a pizza (literal)? What is the difference in the way these meanings are processed by native speakers and L2 learners?
In my research I address these questions through psycholinguistic investigations (for example, measuring reaction times in lexical decision tasks, or observing eye movements in reading tasks, through eye-tracking). This research was sponsored in 2017-2019 by a grant funded by the British Research Council (AHRC), for the research program Creative Multilingualism, where I worked at the University of Oxford.
Comparing semiotic systems: words and images
How does the semiotic system of images work, compared with the verbal one? How are metaphors constructed in visual, verbal, and multimodal messages in which images and words are combined (such as in social campaigns, advertising, and satirical cartoons)?
In my research I address these issues through corpus-based analyses and computational modelling of semantic similarities between concepts compared in visual and verbal metaphors. This research was supported, in 2015-2017, by a Marie S. European fellowship. Curie that I won for the CogVim project (which I conceived and implemented), conducted at the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam, where I am currently the coordinator of the research area Metaphor and Multimodality.