Principal Investigators

John Trueswell

Professor John Trueswell is a psycholinguist who studies language acquisition and language processing. Some of the fundamental questions that Professor Trueswell is interested in include: How do humans so effortlessly interpret utterances in real-time, using incoming speech to compute a speaker’s intended meaning? How do young children learn the meanings of words, and interpret syntactic structure? How do the processing demands of real-time interpretation influence language acquisition, and possibly shape the languages of the world? And conversely, does the language we speak change how we see and think about the world?

Personal website | johntrueswell at gmail dot com

Lila Gleitman

It is with profound sadness to report that Professor Lila Gleitman passed away August 8, 2021, at age 91. Lila was a leader in the developing field of cognitive science, and a guiding light to many in the field both personally and professionally. Please visit here and here for information on her life well lived.

Lila Gleitman was a linguist and psycholinguist whose work concerned the mental lexicon and its interface with syntax, language acquisition, and the relation between language and thought. One of her main interests concerned the architecture and semantic content of the mental lexicon, i.e., the psychological representation of the forms and meanings of words. Another major interest was in how children acquire both the lexicon and the syntactic structure of the native tongue.

Lab Manager

Abimael Hernandez Jimenez

Abimael is the current lab manager of the Language Learning Lab. He graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Language Science from the University of California, Irvine in June 2020. He has conducted research on children’s understanding of temporal and event semantics and adult scope-ambiguity resolution in Mandarin, Spanish, and English.

Personal website | abimaelh at upenn dot edu

Graduate Students

Victor Gomes

Victor is a second-year graduate student. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 2017 with a B.A. in cognitive science and psychology. He is interested pragmatics, expressives, negation, and how we learn the meaning of logical operators (e.g., and, or, not) more broadly. He is passionate about outreach and education, and enjoys reading about narratology and comparative mythology, but in a cool way. He is also the program coordinator for out4STEM, an afterschool program for LGBT+ teens interested in science, at the Mütter Museum.

Personal website | vgomes at upenn dot edu

Ryan Budnick

Ryan is a Ph.D. student in the Penn Linguistics Department and received his B.A. in linguistics from Princeton University in 2016. He is interested in building formal models of language acquisition and use, and in teasing apart the mechanisms of language change. He enjoys playing the clarinet and saxophone in his free time.

rbudnick at upenn dot edu

Spencer Caplan

Spencer is a Ph.D student in the Linguistics Department at Penn, and received his B.A. in linguistics and computer science from Brown University. His research lies at the intersection of computation, cognition, and theoretical linguistics with a focus on language acquisition. His recent work in the lab includes computational modeling of word learning and its influence on the lexicon. Outside of academia, Spencer is heavily involved in competitive Ballroom dancing.

Personal website | spcaplan at upenn dot edu

Postdoctoral Researchers

Sandy LaTourrette

Sandy is a postdoctoral fellow. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Northwestern University in 2020. His research investigates how we learn words and map them to concrete individuals and abstract concepts, as well as how learning words can shape what we learn about the world. By studying these questions from infancy into adulthood, this research provides insight into the interaction of cognitive development and language acquisition. Outside the lab, Sandy enjoys hiking, musicals, fantasy novels, and Scottish country dancing.

Personal website | alatour at upenn dot edu

Martin Ho Kwan Ip

Martin is a postdoctoral fellow. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the MARCS Institute in December 2019. He is interested in how speech processing can be shaped by both language-universal mechanisms and our experience with our native language. At the Language Learning Lab, Martin studies (1) how infants and young children use cues from prosodic focus to learn and remember words and their contextual alternatives, and (2) how adult speakers across languages prioritize different information structural and phrasing cues in sentence disambiguation.

Personal website | mhkip at sas dot upenn dot edu

Tyler Knowlton

Tyler earned his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Maryland and his BA in Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins. His research focuses on the meanings of logical expressions like “every” and “most” and asks: What do their mental representations look like? How do the formal details of those representations affect non-linguistic cognitive systems? And what leads children to connect those particular representations with the relevant pronunciations?

Personal website | tzknowlt at sas dot upenn dot edu

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Abby Laver

Abby Laver is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in consumer psychology. She has been working in the lab since the fall of 2018 as a research assistant. She is interested in language acquisition and is doing a project related to young children’s understanding of figure-ground relationships in sentences with symmetrical meanings. In her free time, Abby enjoys reading, ballet, musicals, and playing board games.


Jenna DiStefano

Jenna DiStefano is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying psychology and ASL. She has been working with Dr. John Trueswell since the summer of 2020 on a project relating to the perceptual-conceptual connection of symmetry in American Sign Language. Jenna is a Philadelphia native who enjoys painting, running, and visiting coffee shops around the city when she is not working in the language learning lab

Gonzalo Ortega

Gonzalo Ortega is an undergraduate student majoring in Linguistics with a second major in CIS. He is interested in psycholinguistics, language in the brain and speech pathology (and also morphosyntax). He recently joined the lab as a research assistant in Fall 2020. Gonzalo is a Chicago native who, outside the lab, enjoys reading, picking up different languages, and exploring the city (Philadelphia now as well)!

Ebony Goldman

Ebony Goldman is an undergraduate research assistant in the lab. She is a senior majoring in Linguistics and Cognitive Science, minoring in Psychology and Hispanic Studies. Her main interests are language acquisition and sociolinguistics, specifically how the gender of interlocutors can affect the interpretation of language.  She is passionate about childhood education and hopes to become a teacher after graduation.

Steven-John Kounoupis

Steven John Kounoupis is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Cognitive Sciences and minoring in both Classical Studies and Popular Music Performance. Since the Spring of 2021, he has been working as a research assistant helping with projects related to how prosodic elements impact how both children and adults understand and interpret speech. In addition to his work in the lab, Steven John also has an interest in mental health research and advocacy, and in his free time likes write and play a lot of rock, funk, and blues music.

Alessandra Pintado-Urbanc

Alessandra Pintado-Urbanc is an undergraduate student majoring in Linguistics and minoring in German and Cognitive Science. She is particularly interested in psycholinguistics, language acquisition and speech pathology. Born into a trilingual household, Alessandra has always enjoyed learning new languages and traveling!

Mia Cheung

Mia Cheung is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Psychology, minoring in Linguistics, and pursuing a certificate in French. As a multilingual speaker, she is interested in bilingualism and language acquisition. In addition to her interest in psycholinguistics, she is a pianist and plays in a piano duo through Penn Chamber. She also hopes to become an educator in the future and has submatriculated to the Higher Education program at the Graduate School of Education.


Alex de Carvalho

Alex is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Université Paris Descartes and he develops his research at the Laboratoire de Psychologie du Développement et de l’Éducation de l’enfant (LaPsyDÉ – UMR CNRS 8240). He is particularly interested in identifying the mechanisms that young children can use to learn the syntax of their native language and to develop their vocabulary.

Personal website | alex dot de-carvalho at

Monica Do

Monica is a postdoctoral fellow. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on the extent to which the language processing system relies on syntactic representations, especially in situations when building those representations can be challenging. In the domain of comprehension, this means she investigates the processing of deprecated or ‘ungrammatical’ sentences. In language production, she investigates the role of syntax in the transition from abstract concepts to linguistic representations.

Alon Hafri

Alon Hafri is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Departments of Cognitive Science and Psychological & Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Alon works with Mick Bonner and Chaz Firestone, as well as Barbara Landau, on force-dynamic relations (“in” and “on”). He uses psychophysical, computational modeling, and fMRI techniques to identify how our perceptual and cognitive systems extract these relations from scenes. (Did you know that a phone in a basket looks remarkably similar to a knife in a cup?).

Personal website

Anna Papafragou

Anna is a Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from University College London in 1998. Her main interests lie in language acquisition (especially semantics and pragmatics) and the interface between linguistic and non-linguistic representations in adults and children.

Charles Yang

Charles is an associate professor in the departments of Linguistics, Computer Science, and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT in 2000. His research interests include language acquisition, processing, and change; morphology and the mental lexicon, computational linguistics, and the evolution of language and cognition.