SPPO Graduate Student Melissa Nieves Rivera Awarded the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) Grant

July 8, 2020

SPPO Graduate Student Melissa Nieves Rivera Awarded the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) Grant

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Melissa Nieves Rivera
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We are delighted to announce that SPPO Graduate Student, Melissa Nieves Rivera, has been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) grant for her dissertation research: “Integrating Numerical and Linguistic Knowledge in the Exact Interpretation of Numerals.” Melissa is working under the direction of Professor John Grinstead, who also is part of the grant submission.

"The use of numerical knowledge is ubiquitous in natural language and is perhaps nowhere more obvious than in the use of quantificational words like some, all, none and the numeral quantifiers, five, seven, ten, etc. This project studies what Spanish-speaking children know about the exact interpretation of numeral quantifiers and the role that non-linguistic cognitive abilities play in these interpretations.

For example, the sentence, 'Kendra scored 6 points.' can be true if Kendra scored 10 points. After all, if one scores 10 points, it is true that one has also scored 6 points. However, we primarily do not speak of numbers in this way, but rather tend to use this sentence to mean exactly 6 points. What is the nature of this restriction? Is it a function of the human language faculty or more domain-general, executive function, cognitive abilities? Or some combination of both? Furthermore, what is the role of our non-linguistic number ability in determining this ability? We test children’s exact interpretations of number and give them a set of non-linguistic cognitive tests, including test of numerical abilities to determine how these domains of mind interact."

The National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) grant is one of the most competitive external grants that a graduate student can receive at the doctoral level as it goes through six external reviews. The program encourages projects that are interdisciplinary in methodological or theoretical perspective, and that address questions that cross disciplinary boundaries. This grant will cover Melissa’s research expenses.

Please join us in congratulating Melissa for such an outstanding honor!