Assistant Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Kathryn Davidson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics. Her research program aims to understand the unique capacity that we have to understand an infinite number of sentences that we've never heard before (semantics), how we incorporate contextual information into these meanings (pragmatics), and how we ever learn to do this (development). She is especially interested in what we can learn about linguistic meaning from visual language, both in full natural languages like American Sign Language and in co-speech gestures to spoken languages.
Davidson directs the Meaning & Modality Experimental Linguistics Lab at Harvard, where projects make balanced use of theory for hypothesis creation with psycholinguistic experimental methods for gathering and analyzing behavioral data based on a wide variety of spoken and signed languages. One line of recent research in the lab has focused on the use of new tools for collecting linguistic data to create mathematically precise models of the semantic/pragmatic interface. Another has focused on the role that language input, irrespective of modality, play in later linguistic development, such as the support gained by early sign language exposure for deaf children's overall language development.
Davidson received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego, and her B.A. in Mathematics and Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Harvard, she was a Postdoctoral Associate in Cognitive Science at Yale University, and before that a Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics at the University of Connecticut.
Faculty website: http://scholar.harvard.edu/kathryndavidson