Associate Professor

I am in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaii, and an affiliate of the Linguistics Department. I have served as Director of the Center for Second Language Research (CSLR).

I study basic mechanisms of human learning to explain language acquisition, processing, and change. Research in my lab combines methods of behavioral experimentation, computational analyses of large corpora of natural language, computer modeling, and a wee bit of brain imaging (EEG, fMRI - with collaborators). Research projects focus on the role that experience plays in shaping learning trajectories and on similarities and differences between child and adult language learning.

In the Fall 2013 I will be joining the Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Prospective students and postdocs interested in ongoing or future projects can contact me directly.

Check out this project in collaboration with Erik Thiessen (CMU) that tracks the development of grammar in monolingual and bilingual infants!

Media coverage

My recent paper with Erik Thiessen was highlighted by the magazine Psychology Press in their section Key Research Articles.


I will be a keynote speaker at the Cognition and Language Workshop 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

With Michael Spivey we have edited a special issue on Cognition and Communication in the open access journal Information: Onnis, L. & Spivey, M.J. (2012) (Eds.) Cognition and Communication, Special Issue of Information.