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Jane Lutken

I work as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science where I am fortunate to teach as well as conduct research on language and the brain. My primary research questions involve studying errors of production and comprehension to better understand the relationship between cognitive processing mechanisms and language "competence". In particular, I am interested in the processes of language and cognitive development. 

I am also in constant pursuit of becoming an effective, engaging teacher. I believe strongly that our teaching methods should be driven by data and research that informs our understanding of effective learning methods, especially when these methods disproportionally improve the learning experience for students from marginalized backgrounds (e.g. Eddy & Hogan, 2017). It is time for us to work to make the 'academy' accessible to everyone. 


My areas of interest include cognitive development, language acquisition, and theoretical syntax. I conduct experimental research investigating the underlying processes of children's acquisition of complex constructions. I also conduct theoretical research in cross-linguistic variation in wh-question formation including long distance wh-movement, wh-scope marking, and copy constructions.

Since the COVID-19 crisis, I have conducted multiple experiments online with children (aged 4-6) and adults. I was initially skeptical about this type of work being done virtually, but found unexpected advantages to performing these types of experiments online. Primarily, it allowed for a more diverse body of participants than my work in the lab. I think it is worth pursuing this type of research in the future and would be happy to discuss this with interested parties.   

My dissertation work took me to Konstanz, Germany where I worked in the BabySpeechLab. With the assistance of Professor Dr. Bettina Braun and members of the BabySpeechLabor, I investigated German children's production and comprehension of complex questions. This work was generously supported by the National Science Foundation through a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. 

I have also been involved in an exciting project developing an App to assist people who have difficulty communicating. To learn more, visit the app's website. The goal is to provide people with a way to communicate their thoughts and feelings when words fail them. Our hope is that this will aid anyone who has a speech deficit. The project is a personal one conceived and powered by friends of my family whose daughter would benefit greatly from such a tool. It has additional import for me because  my grandmother developed Broca's Aphasia. While this app would not be able to solve either of these problems, it is certainly a step in the right direction and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

A bit about me... 

I am from Louisiana (where I took the photo at the top of this screen) and consider myself a speaker of Southern American English. As a young child, I wished I spoke another language and started studying French as soon as it was possible.  At Whitman College, I studied English Literature and was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Nantes. After graduation, I was recommended by Fulbright to receive funding to teach English in France from the TAPIF program. There, I thought I'd found my calling: teaching English as a second language, but I thought "how much better I'd be at this if I knew more about language acquisition!" With that in mind, I started an MA program at Newcastle University (my photo above was taken there)... where I discovered that language acquisition, particularly of syntax, would be what kept me up at night. That is what I currently spend my time thinking about... even when I'm not working... 

When I'm not studying, I enjoy exploring whatever city I find myself in (not only for the excellent studying holes), singing (in and out of choir...) and attending as many plays as possible. During graduate school, I developed a love for swing dancing and lindyhop and highly recommend all graduate students find similar ways to meet non-academics, listen to fabulous music, and get exercise!  

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