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.

External positions

Fellow, The Royal Society of New South Wales


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

2006 → …

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

  • 16 Similar Profiles
Language Medicine & Life Sciences
language Social Sciences
Linguistics Medicine & Life Sciences
linguistics Social Sciences
interpretation Social Sciences
Reading Medicine & Life Sciences
grammar Social Sciences
comprehension Social Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

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
AIDS-Related Complex
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 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: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Preschool Children

Differences in scope assignments for children and adult speakers of Mandarin

Gao, N., Thornton, R., Zhou, P. & Crain, S. 5 Feb 2018 In : Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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

common property