Distinguished Professor Stephen Crain’s 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 Stephen has contributed to the empirical assessment of the theory of Universal Grammar. Over the last decade, Stephen’s 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.
Stephen completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of California Los Angeles in 1971 and attained his PhD from the University of California Irvine in 1980. Stephen 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. Stephen established the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory (est. 1999) and the KIT-Maryland MEG Laboratory (est. 2001) at the University of Maryland.
As an ARC Federation Fellow, Stephen proposed to investigate children’s linguistic competence using a new methodology for functional brain imaging, called magnetoencephalography (MEG). Since coming to Australia in 2004, Stephen has 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).
Currently, Stephen is the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD). The CCD investigates 5 areas of cognition: language, reading, belief formation, memory, and person perception. Stephen is also the Director of the International Center of Child Language Health, in Beijing, China, and a Visiting Professor at the Beijing Language and Culture University, China, and at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Japan.
Stephen was appointed a Macquarie University Distinguished Professor in 2010.