This year, Professor Lahiri received the award for her project titled ‘resolving morpho-phonological alternation: historical, neurolinguistic, and computational approaches’.
The project will investigate morpho-phonological alternations across the world’s languages, their typology, their history, and how difficult it is for speakers to remember and produce them, and for listeners to understand them.
Basic words, and complex words derived from them, could share the same from, as in care and care-ful and rare and rar-ity do; but more often they don’t, in English and elsewhere. Word forms such as wide and width, midwife and midwifery, clean and clean-liness, are examples of morpho-phonological alterations.
Professor Lahiri will be combining theoretical and historical linguistic analysis with neurolinguistics methods (brain imaging) and computational modelling, to answer fundamental questions such as:
- Why do morpho-phonological alternations exist in the first place and why are they so widespread, even though they could potentially impede language comprehension?
- How do they develop over the time-course of hundereds of years?
- How are they represented inside people’s heads and how does the brain process them?