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

Dr. Christiansen was a keynote 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. Click here for a brief write-up in the Cornell Chronicle.

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.

News Archive

Upcoming Talks

S.M. McCauley & M.H. Christiansen: Reappraising Lexical Specificity in Children's Early Syntactic Combinations. Talk to be presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada, July 23-26, 2014.

P. Monaghan, G. Lupyan & M.H. Christiansen: The Systematicity of the Sign: Modelling Activation of Semantic Attributes from Nonwords. Talk to be presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada, July 23-26, 2014.

Recent Journal Papers

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

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.

McCauley, S.M. & Christiansen, M.H. (2014). Prospects for usage-based computational models of grammatical development: Argument structure and semantic roles Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 5, 489-499.

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.

Mitchel, A.D., Christiansen, M.H. & Weiss, D.J. (2014). Multimodal integration in statistical learning: Evidence from the McGurk illusion. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 407. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00407.

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].

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