Portrait of Dr Christina Kim

Dr Christina Kim

Lecturer in Linguistics
Admissions Officer


Dr Christina Kim joined the Department of English Language and Linguistics in October 2013. She received her PhD in Brain & Cognitive Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Rochester, New York, in 2012, where she investigated the interpretation and generation of focus alternatives in discourse using Visual World eye-tracking. 

As a postdoctoral researcher, Christina worked in the Linguistics Department at the University of Chicago, and extended her PhD research to the domain of context dependence in gradable adjectives.

More information is available on Christina's personal website.

Research interests

Christina is interested in how language interpretation and use is situated in context. She approaches these questions from a processing perspective, drawing on methodologies from experimental psychology and cognitive science. 

Christina is Director of the newly established Linguistics Laboratory in the Department of English Language and Linguistics.  


Christina teaches semantics, pragmatics, and quantitative research methods in linguistics.



  • Kim, C. and Runner, J. (2018). The Division of Labor in Explanations of Verb Phrase Ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy [Online] 41:41-85. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10988-017-9220-0.
    In this paper, we will argue that, of the various grammatical and discourse constraints that affect acceptability in Verb Phrase Ellipsis (VPE), only the structural parallelism constraint is unique to VPE. We outline (previously noted) systematic problems that arise for classical structural accounts of VPE resolution, and discuss efforts in recent research on VPE to reduce explanations of acceptability in VPE to general well-formedness constraints at the level of information structure [e.g. Kehler, 2000, 2002, Kertz, 2013, Kehler, 2015]. In two magnitude estimation experiments, we show that — in line with Kehler’s predictions — degradation due to structural mismatch is modulated by coherence relation. On the other hand, we consistently find residual structural mismatch effects, suggesting that the interpretation of VPE is sensitive to structural features of the VPE antecedent.

    We propose that a structural constraint licenses VPE, but that sentences violating this constraint can nevertheless be interpreted. The variability in acceptability is accounted for not by additional constraints on VPE in the grammar, but by the numerous general biases that affect sentence and discourse well-formedness, such as information structural constraints [as proposed by Kertz, 2013], discourse coherence relations Kehler [2000], sensitivity to Question Under Discussion structure [e.g. Ginzburg and Sag, 2000, Kehler, 2015], and thematic role bias at the lexical level [e.g. McRae et al., 1998]. We test the prediction that thematic role bias (Experiment 3) and QUD structure (Experiment 4) will influence both elliptical and non-elliptical sentences alike, while structural mismatch continues to degrade elliptical sentences alone. Our proposal differs from existing proposals in cutting the explanatory pie in a different way with respect to how variations in acceptability are accounted for. We suggest that degradation can result from at least two distinct and separable sources: violating construction-specific grammatical constraints, or from complexity differences in interpretation related to very general discourse level information.
  • Kim, C. et al. (2015). Context-driven Expectations about Focus Alternatives. Cognition [Online] 139:28-49. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2015.02.009.
    What is conveyed by a sentence frequently depends not only on the descriptive content carried by its words, but also on implicit alternatives determined by the context of use. Four visual world eye-tracking experiments examined how alternatives are generated based on aspects of the discourse context and used in interpreting sentences containing the focus operators 'only' and 'also'. Experiment 1 builds on previous reading time studies showing that the interpretations of 'only' sentences are constrained by alternatives explicitly mentioned in the preceding discourse, providing fine-grained time course information about the expectations triggered by 'only'. Experiments 2 and 3 show that, in the absence of explicitly mentioned alternatives, lexical and situation-based categories evoked by the context are possible sources of alternatives. While Experiments 1–3 all demonstrate the discourse dependence of alternatives, only explicit mention triggered expectations about alternatives that were specific to sentences with 'only'. By comparing 'only' with 'also', Experiment 4 begins to disentangle expectations linked to the meanings of specific operators from those generalizable to the class of focus-sensitive operators. Together, these findings show that the interpretation of sentences with focus operators draws on both dedicated mechanisms for introducing alternatives into the discourse context and general mechanisms associated with discourse processing.
  • Kim, C., Carbary, K. and Tanenhaus, M. (2013). Syntactic Priming without Lexical Overlap in Reading Comprehension. Language and Speech [Online] 57:181-195. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0023830913496052.
    Syntactic priming without lexical overlap is well-documented in language production. In contrast, reading-time comprehension studies, which typically use locally ambiguous sentences, generally find syntactic priming only with lexical overlap. This asymmetry has led some researchers to propose that distinct mechanisms underlie the comprehension and production of syntactic structure. Instead, we propose that methodological differences in how priming is assessed are largely responsible for the asymmetry: in comprehension, lexical biases in a locally ambiguous target sentence may overwhelm the influence of syntactic priming effects on a reader’s interpretation. We addressed these issues in a self-paced reading study by (1) using target sentences containing global attachment ambiguities, (2) examining a syntactic structure which does not involve an argument of the verb, and (3) factoring out the unavoidable lexical biases associated with the target sentences in a mixed-effects regression model. Under these conditions, syntactic priming affected how ambiguous sentences were parsed, and facilitated reading times when target sentences were parsed using the primed structure. This resolves discrepancies among previous findings, and suggests that the same mechanism underlies syntactic priming in comprehension and production.
  • Kim, C. et al. (2011). The Acceptability Cline in VP Ellipsis. Syntax [Online] 14:318-354. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9612.2011.00160.x.
    This paper lays the foundations for a processing model of relative acceptability levels in verb phrase ellipsis (VPE). In the proposed model, mismatching VPE examples are grammatical but less acceptable because they violate heuristic parsing strategies. This analysis is presented in a Minimalist Grammar formalism that is compatible with standard parsing techniques. The overall proposal integrates computational assumptions about parsing with a psycholinguistic linking hypothesis. These parts work together with the syntactic analysis to derive novel predictions that are confirmed in a controlled experiment.

Book section

  • Kim, C. (2019). Focus. in: Cummins, C. and Katsos, N. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford University Press, pp. 418-435. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-experimental-semantics-and-pragmatics-9780198791768?cc=gb&lang=en&#.
  • Kim, C. (2015). Presupposition Satisfaction, Locality and Discourse Constituency. in: Schwarz, F. ed. Experimental Perspectives on Presuppositions. Springer. Available at: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319079790.
  • Kim, C. and Runner, J. (2011). Discourse parallelism and VP ellipsis. in: Harris, J. A. and Grant, M. eds. UMass Occasional Papers in Linguistics: Processing Structure. Amherst, MA: GLSA Publications. Available at: https://www.createspace.com/3695226.

Conference or workshop item

  • Kim, C. and Scott, J. (2018). Building fictional worlds: Towards a cognitive model of the reading experience. in: Cognitive Futures in the Arts and Humanities.
  • Kim, C. and Chamorro, G. (2018). Awareness of Linguistic Competence Influences Structural Priming. in: Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing.. Available at: https://amor.cms.hu-berlin.de/~knoeferp/AMLaP2018/Program_files/AMLaP2018_proceedings.pdf.
  • Kim, C. and Scott, J. (2018). Modelling the experience of reading fiction. in: 2018 Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.. Available at: http://www.lagb.org.uk/programme2018.
  • Kim, C. and Salhi, L. (2017). Visual contrast, discourse contrast and conceptual convention. in: Experimental Pragmatics Conference.. Available at: http://www.xprag.de/?page_id=4172.
  • Kim, C. and Reksnes, V. (2017). Speaker-specific expectations about precision. in: Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing.. Available at: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/amlap2017/.
  • Kim, C. and Reksnes, V. (2017). Expectations about imprecise language use are speaker-dependent. in: Linguistics Society of America Annual Meeting.. Available at: https://www.linguisticsociety.org/event/lsa-2018-annual-meeting.
  • Kim, C. and Salhi, L. (2017). Contrast across discourse. in: 2017 Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.. Available at: http://www.lagb.org.uk/workshop.
  • Kim, C. and Runner, J. (2009). Strict Identity, Coherence, and Parallelism in VP Ellipsis. in: Semantics and Linguistic Theory. pp. 275-287.
  • Kim, C. et al. (2009). Inferential Cues for Determining Focus Alternatives: a Visual World Eye-tracking Study. in: Klinedinst, N. and Rothschild, D. eds. European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information Workshop: New Directions in the Theory of Presupposition.
  • Kim, C. et al. (2008). Information Integration and Domain Restriction: Interpreting 'Only' in Context. in: Abner, N. and Bishop, J. eds. West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
  • Kim, C. et al. (2008). Focus Alternatives and Contextual Domain Restriction: A Visual World Eye-tracking Study on the Interpretation of `Only'. in: Riester, A. and Solstad, T. eds. Sinn und Bedeutung.
  • Kim, C. (2007). Processing Presupposition: Verifying Sentences with ‘Only’. in: Tauberer, J., Eliam, A. and MacKenzie, L. eds. Penn Linguistics Colloquium.
  • Kim, C. (2006). Structural and Thematic Information in Sentence Production. in: Elfner, E. and Walkow, M. eds. North East Linguistics Society. GLSA, University of Massachusetts.
  • Kim, C. (2005). Order and Meaning: Numeral Classifiers and Specificity in Korean. in: Alderete, J. ed. West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
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