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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, behavioral experiments, corpus analyses, and computational modeling as well as with different subject populations, ranging from infants to adults with and without language impairments.


Dr. Christiansen will be a keynote speaker at the Eighth International Conference in Evolutionary Linguistics (CIEL-8) at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, August 14-16 2016.

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

Dr. Christiansen was a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Statistical Learning at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, San Sebastián, Spain.

News Archive

Upcoming Presentations

M.H. Christiansen (2016, January). The Now-or-Never Bottleneck: A Fundamental Constraint on Language. Invited colloquium to be delivered at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, Canberra, Australia.

M.H. Christiansen (2016, Feb.). Darwin's Insight: The Cultural Evolution of Language. Invited speaker in the Alabama Lectures on Life's Evolution series, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.

Recent Journal Papers

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

Chater, N., McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Language as skill: Intertwining comprehension and production. Journal of Memory and Language.

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

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

Dediu, D. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Language evolution: Constraints and opportunities from modern genetics. 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.

Vuong, L.C., Meyer, A.S. & Christiansen, M.H. (in press). Concurrent learning of adjacent and nonadjacent dependencies. Language Learning.

Caldwell-Harris, C., Ladd, R., Dediu, D., Biller, A. & Christiansen, M.H. (2015) Factors influencing sensitivity to lexical tone in an artificial language: Implications for L2 learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 37, 335-357.

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.

Frost, R., Armstrong, B.C., Siegelman, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2015). Domain generality vs. modality specificity: The paradox of statistical learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 117-125.

McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2014). Acquiring formulaic language: A computational model. Mental Lexicon, 9, 419-436.

Monaghan, P., Shillcock, R.C., Christiansen, M.H. & Kirby, S. (2014). How arbitrary is language? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 369, 20130299.

Cornell University