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What We Do

In the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Cornell University, we aim to develop a comprehensive account of the evolution, acquisition and processing of language (Christiansen & Chater, 2017). 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). Click here for a brief video in which Dr. Christiansen talks about the nature of language.


Dr. Christiansen was elected Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society.

Write-up on on the July 31, 2017, Nature Human Behaviour Comment by Christiansen & Chater.

Dr. Christiansen was awarded a grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research to study the Puzzle of Danish.

CNL research is featured on the Cornell University Research website: Creating Language.

Check out the short video with Dr. Christiansen recorded when he gave the inaugural Edinburgh Lectures in Language Evolution, Centre for Language Evolution, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, February 20, 2017.

CNL research is featured on the Cornell University Research website: Creating Language.

The Cornell Chronicle published a piece on Dr. Christiansen's recent paper in PLoS ONE: 'Memory limits give rise to open-ended language abilities on January 25, 2017.

Dr. Christiansen was 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.

News Archive

Upcoming Presentations

Dr. Christiansen will deliver a colloquium, The Now-or-Never Bottleneck: A Fundamental Constraint on Language, to the Program in Cognitive Science at Princeton University, NJ, November 30, 2017.

Dr. Christiansen will speak at the Emergence of Universals Workshop to be held at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, February 18-19, 2017.

Recent Journal Papers

Kidd, E., Donelley, S. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Individual differences in language acquisition and processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Trecca, F., Bleses, D., Madsen, T.O. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Does sound structure affect word learning? An eye-tracking study of Danish learning toddlers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Armstrong, B.C., Frost, R. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). The long road of statistical learning research: Past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372, 20160047.

Arnon, I. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). The role of multiword building blocks in explaining L1-L2 differences. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 621-636.

Arnon, I., McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). Digging up the building blocks of language: Age-of-acquisition effects for multiword phrases. Journal of Memory and Language, 92, 265-280.

Christiansen, M.H. & Arnon, I. (2017). More than words: the role of multiword sequences in language learning and use. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 542-551.

Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2017). Towards an integrated science of language. Nature Human Behaviour, 1, 0163.

Cornish, H., Dale, R., Kirby, S. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). Sequence memory constraints give rise to language-like structure through iterated learning. PLoS ONE 265-280.

Farmer, T.A., Fine, A.B., Misyak, J.B. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). The inter-relationship between reading span task performance, linguistic experience, and the processing of unexpected syntactic events. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 413-433.

Fitneva, S.A. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017) Developmental changes in cross-situational word learning: The inverse effect of initial accuracy. Cognitive Science, 41 (Suppl.), 141-161.

McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2017). Computational investigations of multiword chunks in language learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 637-652.

Siegelman, N., Bogaerts, L., Christiansen, M.H. & Frost, R. (2017). Towards a theory of individual differences in statistical learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372, 20160059.

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.

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