I am a post-doctoral associate at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) and the Department of Linguistics and a postdoc affiliate of the program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NACS). I received my PhD from the University of Oregon in 2019. My research explores how speakers extend familiar forms to novel contexts, and factors that influence the ease or difficulty of this process. More specifically, I study how contextual cues and top-down cues influence generalization and productivity, and how these cues interact during learning. At UMD, I work with Naomi Feldman and Jan Edwards. I am using probabilistic models to investigate problems with productivity of grammatical morphemes in the speech of children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). 

Here are a few representative publications:

Harmon, Z., & Kapatsinski, V. (2021). A theory of repetition and retrieval in language production. Psychological Review128(6), 1112–1144. [Paper]

Harmon, Z., Barak, L., Shafto, P., Edwards, J., & Feldman, N. (2021). Making Heads or Tails of it: A Competition–Compensation Account of Morphological Deficits in Language Impairment. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 43, 1872–1878. [Paper]

Harmon, Z., Idemaru, K., & Kapatsinski, V. (2019). Learning mechanisms in cue reweighting. Cognition, 189, 76­­­–88. [Paper]

Harmon, Z., & Kapatsinski, V. (2017). Putting old tools to novel uses: The role of form accessibility in semantic extension. Cognitive Psychology, 98, 22–44. [Paper]

Areas of Interest

  • Computational modeling including Bayesian/probabilistic models of language and neural language models
  • Usage-based and experience-based influences on language development and learning
  • Automaticity, sequential learning, and chunking in language
  • Accessibility-driven language production and its effect on generalization and semantic extension (creativity)
  • Interaction between automaticity and creativity in language


  • PhD
    Linguistics, University of Oregon
  • MA
    Linguistics, University of Oregon
Zara Harmon profile image
MMH 1407
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
zharmon [at] umd.edu