Morten H. Christiansen, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), has been elected to the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.
Founded in 1760, more than 50 years before Norway’s first university, the society has about 435 members in humanities and natural sciences. Christiansen was elected in the Language Science category for being “one of the most prominent international contemporary scholars in the field of the cognitive and cultural foundations of language.”
Christiansen’s research focuses on the interaction of biological and environmental constraints in the evolution, acquisition and processing of language. He uses a variety of techniques, including computational modeling, corpus analyses, statistical learning, psycholinguistic experiments and neuroimaging.
In his 2022 popular science book “The Language Game,” Christiansen explains how humans learn and use language, arguing that language is a product of cultural, not biological, evolution. It is not bound by universal rules and fixed meanings but flexible, developed through a continual flow of creative improvisation – like a game of charades.
The recipient of an A&S New Frontier Grant, Christiansen co-organized, with Laurent Dubreuil, professor of Romance studies and comparative literature (A&S), the 2022 “Art & Science of Thinking” conference at Cornell. In his conference talk, “AI Poetry and Human Language,” he shared how recent advances in deep language models are challenging a traditional model of human language use. In an event on a similar topic, Christiansen and Dubreuil will facilitate a conversation on the use of AI in humanistic research during “ChatGPT and the Humanities” March 24 at 3:30 p.m. in the A.D. White House.
Christiansen received his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Edinburgh in 1995. He is the author of more than 250 research papers and has authored two monographs and edited four books. He was recently elected to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Christiansen is also a professor in cognitive science of language at Aarhus University in Denmark and a senior scientist at the Haskins Labs.