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What We Do

In the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Cornell University, we aim to produce a comprehensive account of the evolution, acquisition and processing of language. Our research is conducted within a unified framework for understanding language across multiple time-scales: the time-scale of thousands of years, over which languages themselves evolve; the time-scale of years, over which children acquire the language of their community; and the time-scale of seconds, in which particular utterances are spoken and understood. We approach language using a variety of methods, including neuroimaging, eye-tracking, statistical learning experiments, psycholinguistic studies, corpus analyses, and computational modeling as well as with different subject populations, ranging from infants to adults with and without language impairments. A comprehensive account of the CNL research can be found in the book Creating language: Integrating evolution, acquisition, and processing by Christiansen & Chater (2016).

News

Review of Cultural evolution (edited by P. Richerson & M.H. Christiansen) in Journal of Economic Literature.

Congrats to grad student Erin Isbilen won a best poster prize (3rd place) for "Testing Implicit Statistical Learning Implicitly", presented at the Fifth Implicit Learning Seminar, Lancaster University, U.K.

The Cornell Chronicle published a piece on Dr. Christiansen's recent paper in Behavioral & Brain Sciences: 'Now-or-Never bottleneck' explains language acquisition on June 7, 2016.

Dr. Christiansen's new book, Creating language: Integrating evolution, acquisition, and processing, is now out (April 1, 2016). Click here for a brief write-up on phys.org

Dr. Christiansen will be a keynote speaker at a conference on Parental Involvement in Language Development from 0-6, organized by the Danish Ministry for Children, Education and Gender Equality, Nyborg, Denmark, November 30, 2016.

Dr. Christiansen will be a keynote speaker at the First vs. Second Language Learning: From Neurobiology to Cognition conference, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, September 26-28, 2016.

Dr. Christiansen has become Professor of Child Language at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University, Denmark, September 2015.

Dr. Christiansen is editing a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on "New Frontiers for Statistical Learning in the Cognitive Sciences” (with Blair Armstrong and Ram Frost).

Dr. Christiansen is editing a special issue of Topics in Cognitive Science on “More than Words: The Role of Multiword Sequences in Language Learning and Use” (with Inbal Arnon).

Dr. Christiansen was a keynote speaker at the Fifth Implicit Learning Seminar at Lancaster University, U.K., June 23-25 2016.

Dr. Christiansen delivered a public lecture, "Darwin's Insight: The Cultural Evolution of Language", in the Alabama Lectures on Life's Evolution series, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. Write-up in the UA News.

News Archive

Upcoming Presentations

M.H. Christiansen (2016, August). Language Evolution as Cultural Evolution. Talk to be presented in the symposium on "The Cultural Evolution of Cognition" at the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

R. Dale, R. Fusaroli, K. Tylén, J. Rzaszek-Leonardi & M.H. Christiansen (2016, August). Exploring Mechanisms for Interaction in a Connectionist Framework. Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

R.L.A. Frost, P. Monaghan & M.H. Christiansen (2016, August). Using Statistics to Learn Words and Grammatical Categories: How High Frequency Words Assist Language Acquisition. Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

E. Jost, N.P. Brennan, K.K. Peck, A.I. Holodny & M.H. Christiansen (2016, August). Making it Right: Can the Right-Hemisphere Compensate for Language Function in Patients with Left-Frontal Brain Tumors? Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

Recent Journal Papers

Arnon, I., McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Digging up the building blocks of language: Age-of-acquisition effects for multiword phrases. Journal of Memory and Language.

Christiansen, M.H. & Monaghan, P. (in press). Division of labor in vocabulary structure: Insights from corpus analyses. Topics in Cognitive Science.

Farmer, T.A., Fine, A.B., Misyak, J.B. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). The inter-relationship between reading span task performance, linguistic experience, and the processing of unexpected syntactic events. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Fitneva, S.A. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Developmental changes in cross-situational word learning: The inverse effect of initial accuracy. Cognitive Science.

Siegelman, N., Bogaerts, L., Christiansen, M.H. & Frost, R. (in press). Towards a theory of individual differences in statistical learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2016). Squeezing through the Now-or-Never bottleneck: Reconnecting language processing, acquisition, change and structure. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 39, e62 [response to commentaries]

Chater, N., McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2016). Language as skill: Intertwining comprehension and production. Journal of Memory and Language, 89, 244-254.

Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2016). The Now-or-Never bottleneck: A fundamental constraint on language. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 39, e62 [target article]

Dediu, D. & Christiansen, M.H. (2016). Language evolution: Constraints and opportunities from modern genetics. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 361–370.

Mueller, K.L., Murray, J.C., Michaelson, J.J., Christiansen, M.H., Reilly, S. & Tomblin, J.B. (2016). Common genetic variants in FOXP2 are not associated with individual differences in language development. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0152576.

Vuong, L.C., Meyer, A.S. & Christiansen, M.H. (2016). Concurrent learning of adjacent and nonadjacent dependencies. Language Learning, 66, 8-30.

Weber, K., Christiansen, M.H., Petersson, K., Indefrey, P. & Hagoort, P. (2016). fMRI syntactic and lexical repetition effects reveal the initial stages of learning a new language. Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 6872-6880.

Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2015). The language faculty that wasn’t: A usage-based account of natural language recursion. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1182. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01182.

Dingemanse, M., Blasi, D., Lupyan, G., Christiansen, M.H. & Monaghan, P. (2015). Arbitrariness, iconicity and systematicity in language.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 603–615.

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