Cynthia L Fisher

Profile picture for Cynthia L Fisher

Contact Information

Psychology Building, room 619

Research Interests

Children rapidly acquire the grammar and vocabulary of their native languages. My research explores how they manage this. For example, what information do children use to figure out the meanings of verbs? In a series of studies in which novel verbs are taught to preschoolers in different grammatical contexts, children interpret verbs in different sentence structures as describing different aspects of the same events. Other work in my lab explores special properties of speech addressed to young children and infants, and young children's representation of speech they hear. These lines of research suggest that young children can use isomorphisms between levels of linguistic structures to gain access to successively deeper analyses of language, from sound to syntax to meaning.


Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania

Additional Campus Affiliations

Professor, Linguistics

Recent Publications

Fisher, C. L., Jin, K. S., & Scott, R. M. (2019). The Developmental Origins of Syntactic Bootstrapping. Topics in Cognitive Science.

Messenger, K., & Fisher, C. (2018). Mistakes weren't made: Three-year-olds’ comprehension of novel-verb passives provides evidence for early abstract syntax. Cognition, 178, 118-132.

Scott, R. M., Gertner, Y., & Fisher, C. L. (2018). Not all subjects are agents: Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. In Trends in Language Acquisition Research (Vol. 24, pp. 153-176). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Lukyanenko, C., & Fisher, C. (2016). Where are the cookies? Two- and three-year-olds use number-marked verbs to anticipate upcoming nouns. Cognition, 146, 349-370.

Messenger, K., Yuan, S., & Fisher, C. (2015). Learning Verb Syntax via Listening: New Evidence From 22-Month-Olds. Language Learning and Development, 11(4), 356-368.

View all publications on Illinois Experts