A Matter of Semantics and Syntax

August 6, 2019

Portrait of Annika Kohrt.

Portrait of Annika Kohrt.
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Annika Kohrt has majors in linguistics and German and minors in neuroscience and computer science. While her four areas of study aren’t typically associated with each other, she has found exactly how to combine her interests. “What I found really beneficial about [studying German],” Kohrt says, “was that it offers a cultural lens and a historical lens on language and on the pieces that connect to that.” Her wide range of coursework gives her an interdisciplinary, intercultural edge, and her recent research in psycholinguistics proves how beneficial that is.

Psycholinguistics looks at “how your brain produces and comprehends language and the structures behind it and the rules that influence it,” Kohrt explains. She worked in the Minnesota Syntax and Psycholinguistics Lab in 2018, where she used self-paced readings in combination with electroencephalography to study the relationship between syntax and semantics.

Her research shows that that relationship might be more complex than previously thought. “It seems that [your brain processes] the syntax first and [you] make your predictions based on the syntactic structure of what you’re hearing, but if you hear a specific type of semantics, then you go back and understand the sentence in a different way,” she explains. Kohrt presented these findings at the 2018 CUNY Sentence Processing Conference at the University of California, Davis.

Kohrt is a Talle Family Scholarship recipient. The award covers the full cost of tuition for 10 CLA students during their senior year.

Read the full story, "A Mind to Invest In"