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Virginia Valian

Ph.D., Northeastern University


Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 510 TH
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 772-5557
Fax:(212) 650-3247

Link to The Virginia Valian Webpage

Link to The Language Acquisition Research Center

Link to Tutorials for Change

Link to The Gender Equity Project


Current Areas of Research

The Language Acquisition Research Center ( investigates first language acquisition - how very young children acquire their native language.  We are particularly interested in how children acquire the structure of their language. By looking at two-year-olds who are just beginning to talk, and by comparing their speech with their parents', we can understand what children innately bring to language and what role the speech around them plays.  We use a variety of methods, from analyzing natural conversation between children and their caregivers, to asking children to imitate various sentences and seeing what elements of the sentence they omit, to having children make a choice between two pictures that might illustrate a sentence we tell them, to asking them to describe a picture.  We also investigate bilingualism and its relation to cognition, primarily in young adults. Students, interns, and volunteers with appropriate qualifications can apply to be a lab member.

The Gender Equity Project ( investigates why so few women are in positions of power and prestige.  We conduct experiments to determine people's attitudes toward women and men, we synthesize research from psychology, sociology, economics, and organization science, and we develop on-line tutorials (  Students, interns, and volunteers with appropriate qualifications can apply to be a lab member.


Selected Language Publications

Sekerina, I. A., Spradlin, L., & Valian, V. V. (2019).  Bilingualism, executive function, and beyond:  Questions and insights, SiBiL Series.  Amsterdam:  John Benjamins.

Pozzan, L. & Valian, V. (2017). Asking questions in child English: Evidence for early abstract representations.
Language Acquisition, 24(3), 209-233. DOI: 10.1080/10489223.2016.1187615

Valian, V. (2016). Null subjects. In J. Lidz, W. Snyder, & J. Pater (Eds.), Oxford handbook of developmental linguistics (Chapter 17). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Valian, V. (2015). Bilingualism and cognition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18(01), 3-24. [keynote article]. Two supplemental appendices are available through the journal.

Valian, V. (2014). Arguing about innateness. Journal of Child Language, 41(Supplement S1, Reflections: 40 years of JCL), 78-92. [Invited contribution for 40th anniversary issue.]

Selected Gender Publications

Greider, C. W., Sheltzer, J. M., Cantalupo, N. C., Copeland, W. B., Dasgupta, N. Hopkins, N.,  Jansen, J. M., Joshua-Tor, L.,  McDowell, G. S., Metcalf, J. L., McLaughlin, BA., Olivarius, A.,  O'Shea, E. K., Raymond, J. L., Ruebain, D., Steitz, J. A., Stillman, B., Tilghman, S. M., Valian, V., Villa-Komaroff, L., & Wong, J. L. (2019). Increasing gender diversity in the biomedical research workforce.  Science, 366(6466), 692-695.

Valian, V.  (2019).  We are all complicit in harassment and abuse.  (World View, A personal take on events).  Nature, 574(7776), 7.

Godbole, M., Malvar, N., & Valian, V.  (2019).  Gender, Modern Sexism, and the 2016 election.  Politics, Groups, and Identities, 7, 700-712.

Stewart, A. J. & Valian, V. (2018). An inclusive academy: Achieving diversity and excellence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nittrouer, C. L., Hebl, M. R., Ashburn-Nardo, L., Trump-Steele, R. C., Lane, D. M., & Valian, V. (2018). Gender disparities in colloquium speakers at top universities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(1), 104-108.

Valian, V. (1998). Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


We welcome students and interns in our lab. A willingness to work hard, consistently, reliably, and meticulously is the most important prerequisite. To find out more about what we are looking for in students and interns, please visit our websites:,,