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Rissman, Woodward & Goldin-Meadow (2018). Occluding the face diminishes the conceptual accessibility of an animate agent. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience.

English speakers are more likely to describe events with passive voice when they cannot see the face of the agent. This suggests that visual prominence has a strong effect on how we think about events.

Rissman & Rawlins (2017). Ingredients of instrumental meaning. Journal of Semantics.

English with & use (e.g. Vivienne sliced the pumpkin with a knife) encode different features of instrumentality, inconsistent with the theory that Instrument is a primitive semantic category.

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Rissman & Goldin-Meadow (2017). The development of causal structure without a language model. Language Learning and Development

In a longitudinal case study of a child homesigner, we show that this child uses handshape morphology to encode causation, but only after a lengthy developmental period.

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Cartmill, Rissman, Novack & Goldin-Meadow (2017). The emergence of iconic features in co-speech gesture and homesign. Language, Interaction and Acquisition

The gestures of hearing children and the signs of a deaf homesigning child appear to be structured based on the same fundamental building blocks.

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Rissman, Rawlins & Landau (2015). Using instruments to understand argument structure: evidence for gradient representation. Cognition

English verbs such as slice and poke encode an instrument, but not through a discrete argument structure. When we consider how verbs encode relations between event participants, there are possibilities beyond the familiar one-participant, two-participant and three-participant categories.


Rissman (2015). Cinderella broke and broke: object deletion and manner-result complementarity. CLS 51

Syntactic judgments and corpus data show that instrumental verbs like slice share properties of both manner verbs and result verbs, supporting the theory that verbal roots can be linked to more than one part of event structure, inconsistent with manner-result complementarity.

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Rissman, Legendre, Landau (2013). Abstract morphosyntax in two and three-year-old children: evidence from priming. Language Learning and Development

A production priming experiment showed that children represent auxiliary is (e.g. the pig is jumping) and auxiliary are (e.g. the birds are singing) as part of the same abstract category.


Rissman (2013). Periphrastic use: a modal account of instrumentality. NELS 41

Instrumental use (e.g. Vivian used a knife to slice the pumpkin) encodes quantification over worlds compatible with the goals of an agent.

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Rissman (2011). Instrumental with and use: modality and implicature. SALT 21

Goal-based interpretations of instrumental with sentences are generated pragmatically.

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Rissman (2010). Instrumental with, locatum with and the argument/adjunct distinction. LSA 2010

Semantic and syntactic diagnostics indicate that locata (e.g., Bill stuffed the cabbage with rice) pattern like arguments, whereas instruments (e.g. Bill stuffed the cabbage with a spoon) pattern like adjuncts. At the same time,  argumenthood is more gradient rather than categorical.