Petra Hendriks

Main research interests

  • Semantics and pragmatics
  • Language acquisition
  • Relation between language and cognition (e.g., Theory of Mind, working memory, inhibition)
  • Language abilities in children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Topics in semantics and pragmatics such as the use and interpretation of pronouns and other referring expressions, ambiguity resolution, ellipsis, quantification, implicatures, irony, and lying


I am the head of the Semantics and Cognition group at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen. This group is part of the research group Neurolinguistics and Language Development of the Center for Language and Cognition Groningen (CLCG). Furthermore, I am a member of the Research School of Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences Groningen (BCN) and the Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics (Landelijke Onderzoekschool Taalwetenschap LOT).


My research explores how listeners arrive at their interpretation of words and sentences in their native language. In my work, I consider not only 'ideal' adult listeners, but also 'less ideal' listeners such as children, elderly adults and individuals with neurocognitive disorders like autism or ADHD, and listeners in 'less ideal' circumstances such as when engaged in an additional cognitive task or when the quality of the heard speech is suboptimal. These listeners reveal important aspects of the nature of our language competence and the relation between language and cognition.

Collaborating with researchers in artificial intelligence, psychology and medical sciences, I aim to bridge the gap between theoretical and computational models of language, on the one hand, and empirical observations on the acquisition, processing and use of language, on the other hand. My theoretical research focuses on when and how listeners (and speakers) consider the perspective of their conversational partner. My empirical research tests predictions based on this theoretical work and investigates the acquisition, processing and use of pronouns (both within the discourse and at the sentence level) and other perspective-dependent expressions.