Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
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Research and Education

Jessica Montag

Jessica Montag
Assistant Research Psychologist, University of California at Riverside
Jessica Montag


My research focuses on the role of experience in language abilities in both children and adults. I study the role of experience using a wide range of methodologies, including computational analyses of the input children and adults receive, as well as eye-tracking and other behavioral experiments testing people’s language abilities.

In adults, one topic of investigation is how language experience underlies our ability to produce and comprehend complex sentences. My work is informed by the idea that language production and comprehension, though separate processes, are part of an interactive system such that experience in one domain has consequences for the behavior in the other. In this line of work, I perform a variety of comprehension and production studies in the lab, with speakers of English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and other languages.

In children, I investigate how language experience shapes early language learning. One focus is on individual differences in language outcomes across children, and how some of these differences can be understood in terms of differences in those children’s experiences. In this line of work, I employ both naturalistic observation studies as well as experiments in the lab.

Another major theme of my work, which I study in both children and adults, is the contribution of reading and writing to spoken language abilities. The structure of written language is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from that of spoken languages, and my work aims to better understand these differences and how exposure to written language (through reading and being read to as children) affects overall language development.

Representative Publications

Montag, J. L., Matsuki, K., Kim, J. & MacDonald, M. C. (under review). The effects of word order on sentence structure choice in language production: A multi-clause and multi-language investigation.

Montag, J. L., Jones, M. N., & Smith, L. B. (2015). The words children hear: Picture books and the statistics for language learning. Psychological Science, 26, 1489-1496.

Montag, J. L. & MacDonald, M. C. (2015). Text exposure predicts spoken production of complex sentences in eight and twelve year old children and adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 447-468.

Montag, J. L., AuBuchon, A. M., Pisoni, D. B. & Kronenberger, W. G. (2014). Speech intelligibility in early-implanted deaf children after long-term cochlear implant use. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 57, 2332-2343.

Montag, J. L. & MacDonald, M. C. (2014). Visual salience modulates sentence choice in relative clause production. Language and Speech, 57, 163-180.