Jeonghwa Cho

Graduate student Jeonghwa Cho was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. In her hometown, Jeonghwa attended Seoul National University where she obtained a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English Language and Literature. During her undergraduate studies Jeonghwa also partook in an exchange program at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver where she was able to meet and collaborate with students from across the globe. It was in this setting where Jeonghwa’s interest for linguistics flourished: Jeonghwa recalls having conversations with her Chinese-speaking roommate and noticing systematic differences in how they both spoke English, despite them both being second-language speakers of the language. After this observation, Jeonghwa became interested in the similarities and the interactive dynamics of different languages. To investigate these topics further, she decided to study linguistics at the graduate level.

Jeonghwa’s connection to U-M, and especially to her primary advisor Jonathan (Jon) Brennan, began when she was completing her master’s degree at Seoul National University. At the time, Jeonghwa conducted a follow-up study to one of Jon’s publications where she investigated how Korean learners of English process aspectual coercion in English. In 2019, Jon presented in a workshop at Seoul National University and further inspired by his lectures and the discussions they had about their common research projects, Jeonghwa decided to look into the Linguistics PhD program at U-M. Upon learning about the mission of the program and the faculty members at U-M, Jeonghwa knew that U-M was the perfect fit for her research.

In her current work, Jeonghwa investigates the cross-linguistic cognitive mechanisms of language processing using psycho/neurological methods. Her research focuses on understanding shared versus unique mechanisms across languages that play a role in real-time language processing (comprehension and production) at different levels of language, such as concepts, word structure, and sentence structure. Jeonghwa uses behavioral and neural measures combined with machine learning to probe these topics. In August 2023, Jeonghwa defended her dissertation prospectus titled ‘Cross-linguistic knowledge representation and processing of words, grammatical features, and sentences’. Currently, for her dissertation, Jeonghwa investigates cross-linguistic similarities and differences when processing words, grammatical features, and sentences focusing on English speakers and Korean speakers. This work will contribute to psycholinguistic theories of mental representation and processing that cannot be answered by studying a single language.

Jeonghwa’s favorite part of conducting linguistic research is examining various types of human data – whether it be eye movements, brain responses, or reaction times – and trying to find patterns based on theories of language processing. She adds, “more than anything else, obtaining new findings that can expand the knowledge of the field a bit further is what excites me the most''. It is not hard to see that Jeonghwa is hardworking and passionate about her work and this has not gone unnoticed. In 2022 Jeonghwa was awarded the Weinberg Cognitive Science Fellowship and in 2023, the Humanities Research Candidacy Fellowship.

After completing her Ph.D., Jeonghwa plans to pursue a researcher and/or faculty position at a university. She hopes to continue making academic and research contributions in linguistics with the skills and expertise she has acquired at U-M, which range from theoretical linguistics to experimental and computational analysis methods. In Jeonghwa's own words, “I hope to continue research investigating psycho-neurocognitive mechanisms of language processing from a cross-linguistic perspective” as and as an instructor, “I want to serve as a bridge between students and the state-of-the-art research in linguistics”.

Outside of Linguistics, Jeonghwa has many interests and hobbies including traveling and photography.