Ailís Cournane = [e’liʃ kuɹ’nan]
Assistant Professor, Department of LinguisticsNew York University (NYU).
Affiliated Professor, Department of Psychology, NYU.

I am interested in how children learn what words and structures mean, and how this learning process relates to the way languages change over time. My experiments and corpus studies focus on linguistic modality (e.g., must, have to, should, maybe), an area of language that expresses uncertain or non-factual information.

I lead the Child Language Lab @ NYU.

I am co-PI, with Valentine Hacquard (UMD), of the NSF-funded project Acquiring the Language of Possibility that uses modals as a testing ground to explore the precise relationships between how languages differ from each other, how languages change over time, and how children learn language.



Summer 2019:

  • Naomi Lee & I presented, “The journey, not the endstate: finding innovation in the dynamics of L1A” at Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS) 21 at ASU in Tempe, AZ. June 5. Slides

Spring 2019: 

  • I gave a talk at UPenn, called “A developmental view on innovation & incrementation change theory” at their Integrated Language Science and Technology Seminar (ILST). University of Pennsylvania. February 22.

Fall 2018:

  • I gave a talk (co-author, Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux): Internal bias feeds incremention: experimental evidence from must in child Toronto English. New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 47. New York University. Oct 18-21.  Slides_NWAV_CournanePerezLeroux
  • Vishal Arvindam & I gave a workshop on Eye tracking for Sociolinguistics at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 47. New York University. Oct 18-21. Slides_NWAV_ArvindamCournane
  • Dunja Veselinovic & I presented two posters at Crossing the Borders: a conference for developmental work at the intersection of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Linguistics at University of Potsdam in Germany, Sept 27-29. 
  • This semester I’m co-teaching (with Brian McElreeLanguage & Mind, the introductory course for NYU’s Language and Mind major. I’m also co-teaching a graduate Seminar in Syntax on the Acquisition of A-Movement (with Stephanie Harves).

Spring 2018:

  • Dunja Veselinovic presented our joint paper “It must be that the structure comes first” at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of America (LSA92), on January 4-7, 2018 in Salt Lake City, UT.
  • This semester I’m teaching First Language Acquisition for undergraduates, and co-teaching the graduate Sociolinguistics Seminar: Language Change with Laurel MacKenzie.

Fall 2017:

  • Annemarie van Dooren & Anouk Dieuleveut (UMD) presented our joint paper (w/ Valentine Hacquard), “Learning what must and can must and can mean” at the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Dec 20-22.
  • I gave an invited talk at the Rutgers Workshop on Word Learning and Linguistic Theory on 9/30. The talk is titled “Polysemy against the odds: Learning Modal Words”, and presents joint work with Valentine Hacquard, Annemarie van Dooren, and Anouk Dieuleveut (NSF#BCS-1551628).
  • This semester I’m co-teaching (with Brian McElreeLanguage & Mind, the introductory course for NYU’s Language and Mind major. I’m also co-teaching a graduate seminar Experimental Semantics (with Lucas Champollion).

Summer 2017:

  • I did an interview for my alma mater, University of Toronto, check it out here.
  • Dunja Veselinovic presented our paper, “The grammatical source of missing epistemic meanings for modal verbs in child BCS” at Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL) 26 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign on May 19-21.

Spring 2017:

  • I participated in the Penn Linguistics Conference (PLC) 41 special panel, “Current Issues in Language Acquisition” on March 24th. My talk was titled, “Child generalization, Language Innovation”.
  • “Parsing to learn phrase structure rules” was accepted as a poster for the PLC41, Yohei Oseki is first author, with Tom Roeper (UMass) and me as second authors.
  • This semester I’m teaching First Language Acquisition for undergraduates, and a Seminar in First Language Acquisition (Modals and Evidentials) for graduates.

Fall 2016:

  • I gave a colloquium (“Learning to Change”) at Carleton University in Ottawa on November 11th.
  • This semester I’m co-teaching Language & Mind, the introductory course for NYU’s Language and Mind major.