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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.


Congrats to Dr. Ethan Jost for successfully defending his PhD on August 23, 2018!

Dr. Christiansen received the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly's Faculty Teaching, Advising, and Mentorship Award, Cornell University, June 22, 2018.

Dr. Christiansen was appointed to an Endowed Chair as the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology, February 1, 2018.

Dr. Christiansen gave his Inaugural Lecture as Professor in Cognitive Science of Language at the School of Communication and Culture and the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark, October 13, 2017.

News Archive

Upcoming Presentations

Dr. Evan Kidd will present a poster by E. Kidd, J. Arciuli, M. Smithson, E.S. Isbilen & M.H. Christiansen on Auditory Statistical Learning Rapidly Supports the Processing of Larger Linguistic Chunks across Early Childhood at the Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing (AMLaP 2018) conference, Berlin, Germany, Sept. 6, 2018.

Dr. Christiansen will deliver the 41st Annual Distinguished Scholar Lecturer Series, Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, September, 26-28, 2018.

Dr. Christiansen will speak in the Distinguished Speaker Series of the Cognitive Science Program at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, April 15, 2019.

Recent Journal Papers

Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Implicit-statistical learning: A tale of two literatures. Topics in Cognitive Science.

Isbilen, E.S. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Chunk-based memory constraints on the cultural evolution of language. Topics in Cognitive Science.

Isbilen, E.S., Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (in press). It’s about time: Adding processing to neuroemergentism. Journal of Neurolinguistics.

Contreras Kallens, P., Dale, R. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Linguistic diversity and individual variation: Comment on “Rethinking foundations of language from a multidisciplinary perspective” by T. Gong et al.. Physics of Life Reviews.

McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development. Psychological Review.

Poletiek, F., Conway, C.M., Ellefson, M.R., Lai, J., Bocanegra, B.R. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Under what conditions can recursion be learned? Effects of starting small in artificial grammar learning of recursive structure. Cognitive Science.

Trecca, F., McCauley, S.M., Andersen, S.R., Bleses, D., Basbøll, H., Højen, A., Madsen, T.O., Ribu, I.S.B. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Segmentation of highly vocalic speech via statistical learning: Insights from a cross-linguistic study of Danish, Norwegian, and English. Language Learning.

Weber, K., Christiansen, M.H., Indefrey, P. & Hagoort, P. (in press). Primed from the start: Syntactic priming during the first days of language learning. Language Learning.

Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Language acquisition as skill learning. Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences, 21, 205-208.

Frank, S.L. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Hierarchical and sequential processing of language. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 33, 1213-1218.

Heimbauer, L.A., Conway, C.M., Christiansen, M.H., Beran, M.J. & Owren, M.J. (2018). Visual Artificial grammar learning by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta): Exploring the role of grammar complexity and sequence length. Animal Cognition, 21, 267-284.

Kidd, E., Donelley, S. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Individual differences in language acquisition and processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 154-169.

Milne, A. E., Wilson, B. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Structured sequence learning across sensory modalities in humans and nonhuman primates. Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences, 21, 39-48.

Reali, F., Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: How population size affects language. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285, 20172586.

Trecca, F., Bleses, D., Madsen, T.O. & Christiansen, M.H. (2018). Does sound structure affect word learning? An eye-tracking study of Danish learning toddlers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 167, 180-203.

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

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