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Personal profile

Biography

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.

External positions

Member, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), Humanities and Creative Arts (HCA) Research Evaluation Committee, Australian Research Council

2018

Fellow, The Royal Society of New South Wales

2015

Member, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), Humanities and Creative Arts (HCA), Research Evaluation Committee, Australian Research Council

2012

Member, Standing Review Board, Humanities and Social Sciences Panel, Research Grants Council of Hong Kong

20122018

Presidential Nominee, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT Corporation Visiting Committee

20112018

Member, Understanding Culture and Communities Expert Working Group, Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

2011

Chair, National Committee for Brain and Mind, Australian Academy of Science

20102014

Member, National Committee for Brain and Mind, Australian Academy of Science

20072014

Fellow, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA)

2006 → …

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Projects 2006 2021

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.

1/01/1831/12/18

Project: Other

Cognition Disorders
AIDS-Related Complex
Mars
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
Language

Research Output 1984 2018

Children's comprehension of plural predicate conjunction*

Tieu, L., Romoli, J., Poortman, E. B., Winter, Y. & Crain, S. Jan 2018 In : Journal of Child Language. 45, 1, p. 242-259 18 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Preschool Children
Reading
comprehension
interpretation
syntax

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

Geçkin, V., Thornton, R. & Crain, S. 2018 In : Language Acquisition. 25, 2, p. 197-212 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

interpretation
speaking
animal
language
Eat

Differences in scope assignments for children and adult speakers of Mandarin

Gao, N., Thornton, R., Zhou, P. & Crain, S. Dec 2018 In : Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 47, 6, p. 1219–1241 23 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

speaking
reconstruction
value judgement
syntax
Assignment

On children's variable success with scalar inferences: insights from disjunction in the scope of a universal quantifier

Pagliarini, E., Bill, C., Romoli, J., Tieu, L. & Crain, S. Sep 2018 In : Cognition. 178, p. 178-192 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Butterflies
Inference
Universal Quantifier
interpretation
ability

Understanding prosodic focus marking in Mandarin Chinese: data from children and adults

Chen, H. C., Szendrői, K., Crain, S. & Höhle, B. 12 Apr 2018 In : Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

speaking
comprehension
Cues
Language
Mandarin Chinese