Research & Publications


  • I have been investigating the neurocognitive mechanisms of real-time language processing using various behavioral & neurological techniques (e.g., self-paced reading, eye-tracking, fMRI). My research seeks to understand how our cognitive system and brain work to obtain the meaning of linguistic expressions in context. Specifically, I focus on lexical-conceptual representation, semantic composition and underspecification, contextualization of sentential meaning, as well as the architecture of conceptual structure that supports human language processing. Recently, I have been examining the impact of social cognition on language comprehension as well.
  • I also joined a project on lexical access in Mandarin Chinese, working with David Braze at Haskins Laboratories (USA).


Book chapters
  • Lai, Y.-Y., Lacadie, C., Constable, T., Deo, A., and Piñango, M. M. (2017). Complement coercion as the processing of aspectual verbs: evidence from self-paced reading and fMRI. In Hampton, James and Yoad Winter (Eds) Compositionality and Concepts in Linguistics and Psychology. Springer International Publishing. pp.191-222. [link]
  • Lai, H.-L. & Lai, Y.-Y. (2022). Iterative meaning in Mandarin Chinese: Linguistic factors and its processing. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.920. [link]
  • Lai, Y.-Y., Sakai, H., and Makuuchi, M. (2023). Neural underpinnings of processing combinatorial unstated meaning and the influence of individual cognitive style. Cerebral Cortex33(18), 10013-10027.
  • Lai, Y.-Y., Braze D., and Piñango, M. M. (2023). The time-course of context modulation for underspecified meaning: an eye-movement study. Mental Lexicon.
  • Lai, Y.-Y. and Lai, H.-L. (2023). Impact of social cognitive propensity on the processing of nontransparent sentential meaning. Journal of Pragmatics. 205, 33-62. [link]
  • Lai, Y.-Y., Lacadie, C., Deo, A. and Piñango, M. M. (2020). Subject animacy and underspecified meaning: The conceptual and cortical underpinnings. Journal of Neurolinguistics. 56, 110912. [link]
  • Lai, Y.-Y.. (2020). Language processing and language learning: perspectives from psycho/neurolinguistics. 華文世界, Vol. 126.
  • Lai, Y.-Y. and Piñango, M. M. (2019). Searching for specific sentence meaning in context: the conceptual relation between participants. Language and Cognition, pp.1-39. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.39 [link]
  • Lai, Y.-Y.. (2017). The complement coercion phenomenon: Implications for models of sentence processing. Ph.D dissertation. Yale University.

TALKS [selected]

  • (2023) Neurocognitive mechanisms of processing combinatorial unstated meaning. Invited talk at the Thought & Language – Mental Architecture of Language Processing (TL-MAPLL) conference. University of Tokyo, Japan. Oct. 01.
  • (2022) Compositional meaning processing: linguistic representations and neurocognitive underpinnings. Invited talk at the 23rd National Conference on Linguistics (NCL 23). Oct. 29.
  • (2022) The processing of underspecified sentential meaning. Invited talk at Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. Aug. 25.
  • (2021) Brain mechanisms of semantic/pragmatic processing of sentences. Invited talk at Leipzig Lectures on Language: combinatorics in language 2021. Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Jun. 02.
  • (2021) Cognitive and brain mechanisms of language comprehension. Invited talk at The 14th Linguistics Salon, Linguistic Society of Taiwan. Jun. 30.
  • (2020) Language processing and language learning. Invited talk at Master’s and Doctor’s Program in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, National Chengchi University. Taipei, Taiwan. Dec. 14.
  • (2020) Analogical thinking: perspectives from psycho/neurolinguistics. Invited talk at The Workshop on Cognitive Science and Analogical Thinking, Department of Philosophy, National Chengchi University. Nov. 02.
  • (2020) Comprehension of “unstated” meaning and the associated neurocognitive mechanisms. Invited talk at National Taiwan University. Taipei, Taiwan. March 23.
  • (2020) Neurocognitive mechanisms of comprehending sentence meaning. Invited talk at National Chengchi University, Department of Psychology. Taipei, Taiwan. March 12.
  • (2019) Comprehension of underspecified meaning and the impact of individuals’ autistic traits. Talk at Meaning in Flux workshop at Yale, New Haven, CT, USA. Oct 11.
  • (2019) Comprehension of underspecified iterative meaning in Japanese. Talk at the joint conference of Mental Architecture for Processing and Learning of Language, Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics, and the technical group of Thought and Language (MAPLL- TCP-TL). Kobe, Tokyo. July 28.
  • (2018) One construal mechanism of underspecified meaning during sentential meaning composition. Talk at The 17th International Conference on the Processing of East Asian Languages and the 9th Conference on Language, Discourse, and Cognition (ICPEAL17-CLDC9). Taipei, Taiwan. October 19.
  • (2018) Neurocognitive mechanisms of processing underspecified meaning. Invited talk at National Tsing-Hua University, Hsinchu City, Taiwan. October 17.
  • (2018) Searching for unstated meaning: the lexicon-context interface. Talk at the 2nd Evolinguistics Meeting. Japan. August 07.
  • (2018) The processing of underspecified sentence meaning. Talk at Computation and Representation for Brain and Language colloquium, Waseda University. Tokyo, Japan. July 20.
  • (2018) The processing of unstated meaning. Talk at National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities. Tokorozawa, Japan. May 22.
  • (2018) Processing underspecified meaning: the case of coercion. Invited talk at ワークシショップ「ことばの発達の神経科学」東北大 学国際文化研究科附属言語脳認知総合科学研究センター. Sendai, Japan. March 22.
  • (2017) Context and semantic composition of multiple dimension representations in real-time comprehension. Talk at Mental Architecture for Processing and Learning of Language, Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics (MAPLL- TCP), National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL), Japan. July 22.
  • (2017) Comprehending underspecified meaning: resolving ambiguity by contextual and conceptual search. Talk at The 19th Annual International conference of the Japanese Society for Language Sciences (JSLS). Kyoto Woman’s University, Japan. July 02.  
  • (2017) The complement coercion phenomenon: Implications for models of sentence processing. Ph.D oral defense. Department of Linguistics, Yale University.
  • (2017) Deconstructing complement coercion as the processing of aspectual verbs. Talk at Psycholinguistics Lab, University of Tokyo. January 27.
  • (2016) Neurocognitive properties of for-adverbials and the Lexicon-Context Interface. Talk at the Tenth International Conference on Mental Lexicon. University of Ottawa, Canada. October 19.
  • (2016) The structured individual hypothesis for processing aspectual verbs. Talk at Berkeley Linguistics Society 42 workshop. University of California, Berkeley. February 07.
  • (2015) The structured individual hypothesis for processing aspectual verbs. Talk at the Southern New England Workshop in Semantics (SNEWS). Harvard University, November 21.
  • (2015) Deconstructing complement coercion: implications for the Structured Individual hypothesisTalk at Day of Cognitive Science at Yale. April 30.
  • (2013) Complement coercion revisited: the processing of aspectual verbs. Invited talk at the Department of Cognitive Science, The Johns Hopkins University.

Conference Poster Presentations

  • (2017) Eventive iteration construal during comprehension: One process, two contextual sources. Piñango, M. M., Lai, Y.-Y., Foster-Hanson, E., Lacadie, C., Constable, T. and Deo, A.. Poster presented at The 30th CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. March 31-April 1.
  • (2015) Complement coercion revisited: the Structured Individual Hypothesis for processing aspectual verbs. Lai, Y.-Y., Lacadie, C., Constable, T., Deo, A. and Piñango, M. M.. Poster presented at Society of Neurobiology for Language (SNL). Chicago, USA. October 16-18.
  • (2014) Complement coercion as the processing of aspectual verbs: Evidence from Self-Paced Reading and fMRI. Lai, Y.-Y., Lacadie, C., Constable, T., Deo, A., and Piñango, M. M.. Poster presented at Cognitive Science Society Meeting, 2014. Quebec, Canada.
  • (2012) Building multiple events: the cost of context retrieval. Deo, D., Piñango, M. M., Lai, Y.-Y. and Foster-Hanson, E.. Poster presented at Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), Italy.


  • Lai, Yao-Ying. (2014). Word Formation in Taiwan Southern Min. Qualifying paper. Department of Linguistics, Yale University