Faculty, Profile

Psycholinguistics researcher moves from Germany to teach at SFU

August 20, 2019

When she first visited SFU in 2016 to give a talk on using eye-tracking methods in psycholinguistics, Dr. Margaret Grant fell in love with the university. Her interactions with the students and faculty members left a deep impression on her so when a teaching position opened up, Grant jumped at the opportunity. 

This fall, she will be joining the Department of Linguistics as a full-time lecturer in a joint appointment with the Cognitive Science program. 

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the Belleville, Ontario native as Grant is moving back to Canada from Germany where she had spent the last three years as a post-doctoral researcher with the Research Unit on Experimental Syntax and Heritage Languages (RUESHel) at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. It was there that she developed an interest in the German language comprehension system's defaults and preferences for interpreting morphologically complex words. She plans to continue building on her work examining the ways in which words with multiple meanings are processed. 

Grant developed an interest in language and the brain during her undergraduate studies at McGill University, and she hopes to spark the same interest in her students and get them excited about linguistics and cognitive science. 

"As much as possible, I encourage students to think like researchers from an early stage in their university program of study," says Grant "This involves asking well-motivated questions, generating hypotheses and thinking through the space of potential predictions." 

Grant's specialty is in sentence processing which is fitting as it combines her interests in linguistics and cognitive psychology to examine how sentence structure is built and interpreted during language comprehension. While completing her PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Grant wrote her dissertation on the parsing and interpretation of comparative constructions, which have been studied intensively in theoretical syntax and semantics but had not at that point been studied very much in the domain of psycholinguistics.

On a personal note, Grant is settling down to her new life at SFU before the fall semester starts next month. She looks forward to exploring the beautiful BC landscape, and hopes to squeeze in some hiking between her teaching and research work.