Photo of Masako Hirotani

Masako Hirotani

Associate Professor (Linguistics); Director (Language & Brain Lab); Sabbatical July 1, 2024 - June 30, 2025

Degrees:B.A. (Sophia), M.A. (Tokyo), Ph.D. (Massachusetts)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2805 (prefers e-mail contact)
Office:202 Paterson Hall


Dr. Masako Hirotani is an Associate Professor of Linguistics. She received her PhD in psycholinguistics from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After the completion of her PhD, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Neuropsychology Department, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.

Dr. Hirotani is investigating the mechanisms of human language processing. Her research interests are focused on the following areas: 1) adult sentence processing, 2) use of auditory information in sentence processing by adults and children, and 3) neural correlates for language processing.

By collaborating with her colleagues, Dr. Hirotani has recently been studying the impact of dialectal difference on academic test and educational outcomes, how two speaker’s mental models can be shared to facilitate their conversations, and the impact of the acoustic properties of speech sounds, including noises, in real-time sentence comprehension. She hopes that her research will help build an inclusive and accessible world filled with speakers accepting of dialect- and neuro-diversity.

She is the director of the Carleton’s Language and Brain Laboratory. She is an active member of the Carleton’s Accessibility Institute, Centre for Applied Cognitive Research (CACR) and the Visualization and Simulation (VSIM) Centre. She is cross-appointed with Carleton’s Department of Cognitive Science. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapell Hill.

Research Areas

  • Psycholinguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience of Language
  • Syntax-Phonology and Semantics-Phonology Interfaces

Research Laboratory

Courses Previously Taught

  • LING 1001: Introduction to Linguistics I
  • LING1002: Introduction to Linguistics II
  • LING 1100: Mysteries of Language
  • LING 3601 / PSYC 3709: Language Processing and the Brain
  • LING 3603 / PSYC 3508: Child Language
  • LING 4601: Cognitive Neuroscience of Language
  • LING 4605: Psycholinguistic Research Methods
  • LING 4606: Statistics for Language Research
  • CGSC 5005: Cognition and Neuroscience

Selected Publications

Terry, J.M., Thomas, E.R., Jackson, S.C., & Hirotani, M. (2022). African American English Speaking 2nd Graders, Verbal –s, and Educational Achievement: Event Related Potential and Math Study Findings, PLOS ONE, 17(10): e0273926.

Hirotani, M., Terry, J.M., & Sadato N. (2016). Processing Load Imposed by Line Breaks in English Temporal Wh- Questions. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1–10.

Fox, J., & Hirotani, M. (2016). Detecting Incremental Changes in Oral Proficiency in Neuroscience and Language Testing: Advantages of Interdisciplinary Collaboration. In V. Aryadoust & J. Fox (Eds.), Trends in Language Assessment Research and Practice: The View from the Middle East and the Pacific Rim (pp. 89–120), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Okazaki, S., Hirotani, M., Koike, T., Bosch-Bayard, J., Takahashi, H.K., Hashiguchi, M., & Sadato, N. (2015). Unintentional Interpersonal Synchronization Represented as a Reciprocal Visuo-postural Feedback System: A Multivariate Autoregressive Modeling Approach. PLoS ONE, 10, e0137126. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137126.

Shimada, K., Hirotani, M., Yokokawa, H., Yoshida, H., Makita, K., Yamazaki-Murase, M., Tanabe, H.C., & Sadato, N. (2015). Proficiency-dependent Cortical Activation Associated with Speech    Production and Comprehension in Second Language Learners. Neuroscience, 300(6), 474–492.

Hirotani, M. (2012). Prosodic Phrasing of Wh- questions in Tokyo Japanese. In T. Borowsky, S. Kawahara, T. Shinya, & M. Sugahara (Eds.), Prosody Matters, Essays in Honor of Lisa Selkirk, Series: Advances in Optimality Theory (pp. 446–486), London, UK: Equinox.

White, S.J., Hirotani, M., & Liversedge S.P. (2012). Eye Movement Behavior during Reading of Japanese Sentences: Effects of Word Length and Visual Complexity. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 25(5), 981-1006.

Hirotani, M., Makuuchi, M., Rueschemeyer, S., & Friederici, A.D. (2011). Who was the Agent? The Neural Correlates of Reanalysis Processes during Sentence Comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 32(11), 1775–1787.

Hirotani, M., & Schumacher, P.B. (2011). Context and Topic Marking Affect Distinct Processes during Discourse Comprehension in Japanese. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 24(3), 276–292.

Hirotani, M., Stets, M., Striano, T., & Friederici, A.D. (2009). Joint Attention Helps Infants Learn New Words: Event-related Potential Evidence. NeuroReport, 20(6), 600–605.

Wolff, S., Schlesewsky, M., Hirotani, M., & Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I. (2008). The Neural Mechanisms of Word Order Processing Revisited: Electrophysiological Evidence from Japanese. Brain and Language, 107(2), 133–157.

Mueller, J.L., Hirotani, M., & Friederici, A.D. (2007). ERP Evidence for Different Strategies in the Processing of Case Markers in Native Speakers and Non-native Learners. BMC Neuroscience, 8, 18.

Hirotani, M., Frazier, L., & Rayner, K. (2006). Punctuation and Intonation Effects on Sentence and Clause Wrap-up: Evidence from Eye Movements. Journal of Memory and Language, 54(3), 425–443.

Selected Research Grants, Awards, and Honours

“Are You Ready? Enhancing Experiential Learning Experiences in the Psycholinguistics and Communication Disorders Concentration” (with Drs. Karen Jesney and Tamara Sorenson Duncan), funded by “the Carleton University Experiential Learning Fund (CUELF), 2023-2024.

Nominated as “2018 Favourite Faculty Member” by students in the residence community, The Department of Housing and Residence Life Services, Carleton University, 2018-2019.

Invitation Fellowship for Research in Japan: Long-term, “Neural Substrates for Conversation: A Hyper-Scanning Functional MRI Study”, granted by The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), 2017-2018.

“Development of Psycholinguistics Training Program”, funded by The Carleton Innovation Forum (CIF), Carleton University, 2013-2016.

FASS Research Award, Carleton University, 2012.

FASS Research Award, Carleton University, 2011.

FASS Junior Faculty Research Award, Carleton University, 2011.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience: Language and Brain (CCN.LaB). Canada Foundation for Innovation, Leaders Opportunity Fund, 2009-2013.

Certificate in University Teaching, Educational Development Centre, Carleton University, 2009

The On-line Use of Prosodic Information during Sentence Comprehension: ERP Investigation. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant, 2008-2011.