Personal profile


My research is in three areas of the psychology of language: child language acquisition, adult language processing, and neurolinguistics. In the study of child language development, I have contributed to the empirical assessment of the theory of Universal Grammar. For the last decade, my research has focused on children’s acquisition of semantic knowledge, in particular young children’s knowledge of logical expressions. Much of this has been cross-linguistic research, with a particular focus on Mandarin Chinese. 

I completed my Bachelor of Arts at the University of California Los Angeles in 1971 and my PhD at the University of California Irvine in 1980. My previous academic and leadership positions have either been in linguistics or in cognitive science. I was head of the Linguistics Department at the University of Connecticut (1991-1994) and was an investigator on grants on language development, language processing, and language disorders at Haskins Laboratories, a Speech and Hearing Research Center in New Haven, CT. I was head of the Linguistics Department at the University of Maryland (1995-2003), where I established the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory (est. 1999) and the KIT/Maryland MEG Laboratory (est. 2001). As an ARC Federation Fellow, I proposed to investigate children's linguistic competence using a new methodology for functional brain imaging, called magnetoencephalography (MEG). Since coming to Australia in 2004, I have led international teams of researchers and engineers in the development of two MEG systems: (a) the first whole-head adult MEG system in Australasia (est. 2006), and (b) the world’s first MEG system to study cognitive processing in children (est. 2008). 

At Macquarie University, I have held the positions of Deputy Director, Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science (2004-2010), Director, KIT-Macquarie Brain Research Laboratory (2005-2010), and established and was the inaugural Director of the Centre for Language Sciences (2007-2010). In 2010 I was appointed a Macquarie University Distinguished Professor.  

Currently, I am Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD). The CCD is funded for 7 years from 2011, and investigates 5 areas of cognition: language, reading, belief formation, memory, and person perception. I am the Program Leader of the Language Program. I am also Director of the International Center of Child Language Health, in Beijing China, and I am Visiting Professor at the Beijing Language and Culture University, China, and at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Japan.

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Projects 2006 2018

Centre of Excellence for the Developing Mind

Castles, A., Hayes, B. K., Slaughter, V., de Rosnay, M., Melhuish, T., Burnham, D., Demuth, K., Suddendorf, T., Crain, S., Herbert, J., Johnson, M., Jones, C., Keller, P., McArthur, G., Navarro, D., Nielsen, M. & Richmond, J.


Project: Other

Cognition Disorders
Appointments and Schedules

Centre for Language Sciences (CLaS)

Thornton, R., Crain, S., Peters, P., Cupples, L., Johnston, T., Nickels, L., McMahon, C., Johnson, M., Armstrong, B., Cox, F., Harrison, R., Mannell, R., Napier, J., Newall, P., Rieschild, V., Slatyer, H., Tent, J., Lising, J., Mollering, M., Winchester-Seeto, T., Jensen, B., Palethorpe, S. & Tesan, G.

1/07/07 → …

Project: Research

Appointments and Schedules

Research Output 1984 2017

Acquisition of logical connectives and focus, L1

Crain, S. & Zhou, P. 2017 Encyclopedia of Chinese language and linguistics. Sybesma, R., Behr, W., Gu, Y., Handel, Z., Huang, C-T. J. & Myers, J. (eds.). Leiden, Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, Vol. 1, p. 34-40 7 p.

Research output: ResearchEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary/reference book

Acquisition of Quantifiers

Crain, S. 14 Jan 2017 In : Annual Review of Linguistics. 3, p. 219-243 25 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

Children's comprehension of plural predicate conjunction*

Tieu, L., Romoli, J., Poortman, E. B., Winter, Y. & Crain, S. 8 May 2017 (Accepted/In press) In : Journal of Child Language. p. 1-18 18 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Preschool Children

Children’s interpretation of disjunction in negative sentences: A comparison of Turkish and German

Geçkin, V., Thornton, R. & Crain, S. 19 Mar 2017 (Accepted/In press) In : Language Acquisition. p. 1-16 16 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Grey matter volume differences in the left caudate nucleus of people who stutter

Sowman, P. F., Ryan, M., Johnson, B. W., Savage, G., Crain, S., Harrison, E., Martin, E. & Burianová, H. 1 Jan 2017 In : Brain and Language. 164, p. 9-15 7 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Open Access
Corpus Striatum
Caudate Nucleus
Gray Matter
Research Design