About me

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Yale University under the supervision of Bob Frank. My research interests lie in the area of argument structure, which I explore using a variety of theoretical and experimental methodologies. In particular, I focus on questions about how verbs’ and their arguments’ meanings relate to the syntactic structures they occur in. I address these questions with both generative models and experimental evidence.

With Bob Frank, I am investigating argument structure alternations using computational methods (e.g., neural network models). Argument structure alternations raise interesting questions about learnability, as they are characteristically productive but only within a limited domain. Determining how such patterns can be correctly learned helps us develop better models of learnability and the contents of Universal Grammar.

In my dissertation, I investigated the syntax and semantics of verbal argument structure, focusing primarily on spray/load and related verbs. I find evidence from readings of again with these verbs that supports a syntax that allows phrases to belong to more than one mother node (a syntax that permits multidominance). I am following up on this research in different ways with Bob Frank and Tom Roeper. I also investigated interesting patterns found with non-agentive uses of these verbs, which I argue can be derived by P-conflation with the verb root. In experimental work, I am studying the processing, comprehension, and production of subject and object experiencer verbs using self-paced reading, sentence production, and acceptability judgment measures. I am also collaborating with Shota Momma to investigate the planning of verbs and long-distance dependencies in spoken and written sentence production, and have worked with Brian Dillon and Maayan Keshev to examine the effect of various syntactic configurations on agreement attraction.

Somewhat less recently, I have done experimental work on the English dative alternation, and formal work on the syntax and semantics of adjectival passives, as well as on an aspectual (eventive/stative) alternation shared by object experiencer, location, and govern-type verbs, which I argue is a kind of double-object causative-inchoative alternation. I have also collaborated with Rong Yin on the syntax and semantics of argument and adjunct coordination in Spanish.

I have also worked on the acquisition of recursion with a large research group headed by Tom Roeper, and have begun collaborating with him and Shota Momma to examine priming of recursion in adult speakers. For the acquisition side of this project, I developed an experiment to test the acquisition of possessive recursion in English, which was adapted and run in Mandarin by Daoxin Li and colleagues.

Email: michael.a.wilson@yale.edu

GitHub: github.com/mawilson1234