As a cognitive scientist, Julien is interested in two sets of questions. The first focuses on elucidating specific aspects of the human mind such as our capacity to acquire language, to reason, and to think critically. This work, based on Julien’s training in theoretical linguistics, cognitive/developmental psychology, and speech-language pathology, takes an interdisciplinary approach and integrates concepts, methods, and experimental techniques from these different fields. The goal of this work is to understand how these capacities are acquired, represented, and used by both typical and atypical populations of human beings. The second set of questions explores the implications of cognitive science for a range of issues at the interface between science and society. The goal of this work is to promote the role and importance of science and reason as they inform issues of broader societal importance.
Below are brief descriptions of three line of work carried out by Julien and his collaborators in the area of developmental psycholinguists.
Quantification and Isomorphism
In my dissertation (Musolino, 1998), I uncovered a developmental phenomenon known as The Observation of Isomorphism (OI). In essence, OI expresses the observation that preschoolers, unlike adults, often display a marked preference for the interpretation of ambiguous sentences containing negation and quantified NPs that corresponds to the surface syntactic position of these elements. So, for example, 5-year-olds assign an ambiguous sentence like (1) meaning 1, whereas adults assign it meaning 2.
(1) Every horse didn’t jump over the fence
Meaning 1: None of the horses jumped over the fence
Meaning 2: Not all the horses jumped over the fence
Over the past decade, the body of work addressing the phenomenon uncovered by Musolino (1998) has grown, generating new studies and establishing new links between different research areas (see for example the special issue of the journal Language Acquisition dedicated to Isomorphism – Vol 13, issue 2, 2005/2006). OI has now been replicated by different investigators, with different quantifier/negation combinations, and in different languages (e.g., English, French, Kannada, Korean).
The research program that my collaborators and I developed, as well as other work based on our findings, has implications for a range of domains, including (a) linguistic theory (e.g., Lidz and Musolino, 2005/06; Han, Lidz, and Musolino, 2007), (b) learnability theory (e.g., Musolino, 2006, (c) models of language acquisition (e.g., Gennari and MacDonald, 2005/06; O’Grady, 2008 ), (c) experimental methodology (e.g., Musolino and Lidz, 2006), (d) models of scope-ambiguity resolution (e.g., Musolino and Lidz 2006; Gualmini, 2008; Gualmini et al., 2008; Conroy, 2008), and (e) experimental pragmatics (Gualmini, 2004; Noveck et al., 2007; Noveck and Reboul, 2009). For a recent survey see Musolino (submitted).