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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, molecular genetics, 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 plenary speaker at the International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, July, 14-18, 2014.

Dr. Christiansen will an invited speaker at CoNLL-2014: the 18th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning, Baltimore, MD, June 26-27, 2014.

Dr. Christiansen has become an External Professor in the Department of Language and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark, January 2014.

Dr. Christiansen has a new edited volume published on Cultural Evolution (with Pete Richerson), November 2013.

Dr. Christiansen has become affiliated with the Haskins Labs as a Senior Scientist, July 2013.

The paper "The arbitrariness of the sign: Learning advantages from the structure of the vocabulary", Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2011, by Monaghan, Christiansen & Fitneva was selected for the 2013 Cognitive Psychology Section Award from the British Psychological Society.

Dr. Christiansen was a keynote speaker at the 2013 European Conference on Complex Systems(ECCS’13), Barcelona, Spain, September 16-20, 2013.

M.H. Christiansen: Darwin’s Insight: The Cultural Evolution of Language. Invited public lecture delivered at the Institute of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, May 27, 2013.

Dr. Christiansen delivered a public lecture at the National Central University, Taiwan, May 10, 2013.

The American Scholar published a piece reporting Dr. Christiansen's 2012 paper in PLoS ONE: The biological origin of linguistic diversity March, 2013.

News Archive

Upcoming Talks

D. Blasi, M.H. Christiansen, S. Wichmann, H. Hammarström & P. Stadler: Sound Symbolism and the Origins of Language. Paper to be presented at the 10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, Vienna, Austria, April 14-17, 2014.

F. Reali, N. Chater & M.H. Christiansen: The Paradox of Linguistic Complexity and Community Size. Paper to be presented at the 10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, Vienna, Austria, April 14-17, 2014.

Recent Journal Papers

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

Hsu, H.J., Tomblin, J.B. & Christiansen, M.H. (2014). Impaired statistical learning of non-adjacent dependencies in adolescents with specific language impairment. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:175. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00175.

Baronchelli, A., Ferrer i Cancho,, R., Pastor-Satorras, R., Chater, N. & Christiansen, M.H. (2013). Networks in cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17, 348-360.

McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2013). Towards a unified account of comprehension and production in language development. Behavioral and Brain Sciences [commentary].

Cornell University