Développement du langage et cognition

Sandra Villata


Assistante Doctorante
Tel.: 022 379 91 45


Uni-Pignon bureau 610
Boulevard du Pont d'Arve 42
1205 Genève


I obtained my BA and my MA in Philosophy at the University of Turin (with a special focus on Philosophy of language and Philosophy of mind). In 2013 I obtained the Certificat de Specialisation in Linguistics at the University of Geneva under the supervision of Prof. Luigi Rizzi. I am currently working at my PhD thesis under the supervision of Dr. Julie Franck (FPSE, University of Geneva) and Prof. Luigi Rizzi (Department of Linguistics, University of Geneva).


We constantly experience phenomena of interference in our everyday life. Whenever we mix up two telephone numbers, or when we cannot remember in which parking spot we parked our car, or when we are unable to recall the name of a person, what is happening is that similar entities (such as memories) are interfering with each other. Interestingly, language seems also to be sensitive to similarity-based interference: sentences containing highly similar elements are much harder to understand than sentences in which all elements are well distinct both syntactically and semantically. My research deals with linguistic interference and aims at bridging the knowledge accumulated in cognitive theories, with a special focus on the Cue-based memory model (e.g., McElree, Foraker & Dyer, 2003; Lewis, Vasishth & Van Dyke, 2006), with the knowledge accumulated in syntactic theories, and in particular under the viewpoint of Relativized Minimality (Rizzi 1990, 2004; Friedmann et al., 2009): while the latter provides fine conceptual tools to characterize the structural conditions under which interference arises in language, the former deals with the cognitive mechanisms underlying these effects. My research aims at incorporating these theoretical insights into a unified processing model that can account both for the formal conditions under which interference effects arise in language comprehension and production and the cognitive mechanisms that sustained these effects, therefore starting to fill the gap between formal linguistics and cognitive models.