Professor and Chair
Department of Linguistics
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Research Interests & Goals:
Misha Becker is a Professor in the Linguistics department at UNC Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from UCLA in 2000 and then held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her main area of research is the acquisition of syntax in first language in normally developing children.
Misha’s current research focuses on how children learn a class of unusual predicates known as “raising” predicates. Verbs in this class, including ‘seem’, ‘appear’, ‘tend’ and a few others, are unusual both in their lexical meaning (they all have highly abstract meanings) and in their syntactic properties. For instance, the subject of the verb ‘seem’ in a sentence like “John seems to be happy” is not semantically related to the verb ‘seem’; however the subject of ‘run’ in “John runs” is semantically related to the verb ‘run’. If children were to learn sentence structures by analogy, the existence of this class of verbs would present a significant learning problem. Misha’s current work investigates how children ages 4-6 years acquire these predicates. She focuses on the role that the animacy of nouns can play in guiding children to the properties of these difficult predicates. In addition to language acquisition, Misha is interested in learning in other cognitive domains and the relations between linguistics and other areas of cognitive science.