Dr. Alan K.S. Nielsen

PhD. Psycholinguistics (Language Evolution)

This is my Postdoc

In June 2016 I got the very happy news that I had been accepted for a 1 year position at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, along with 9 other early career researchers. Happily I was already friends with a number of the group, cheekily named LEvInSON (Language EVolution and INteraction Scholars of Nijmegen) after our leader Dr. Stephen Levinson. I am immensely pleased to call myself a member of this group, both socially and for the excellent opportunities for collaboration that it has brought.


This is my PhD.

Following my time in Lethbridge, I was happily accepted into the PhD. program of the Center for Language Evolution, working with Dr. Kenny Smith, Professor Simon Kirby, and Dr. Julia Simner. My time in Edinburgh was fantastic, and I made many lifelong friends and collaborators in my years there. My PhD dissertation (here) focused on an exploration of the individual and joint effects that both systematicity and motivatedness have on language learning and the structure of the lexicon. My dissertation was defended in March 2016 with Dr. Mits Ota (internal) and Dr. Padraic Monaghan (external) as examiners, and awarded in June 2016.

This is my Masters

In my fourth year seminar with Dr. Rendall, we read Language Evolution, by Kirby and Christiansen. Discussions of topics in that collected volume, combined with courses about the Philosophy of Language, convinced me that language was the most interesting of human behaviors. The research in my MSc. focused on the Bouba-Kiki Effect, replicating and expanding on previous work and suggesting that sound-symbolic biases like this might have important implications for language learning, especially insofar as those biases are shared by humans and other animals. A number of publications came out of my MSc. research, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Drew Rendall for his supervision, as well as to Dr. John Vokey and Dr. Bryson Brown for their excellent input as committee members. My MSc. Dissertation can be found here.


This is my Undergraduate

My undergraduate experience began at The University of Calgary in Psychology, taking formative classes from Dr. Cam Teskey and Dr. Christopher Sears that shaped my interests in cognition and experimentation. The large class sizes and anonymity in Calgary did not suit me, so I eventually transferred into the Neuroscience program at the University of Lethbridge. My classes in Neuroscience were immensely valuable, but electives in psychology and philosophy captured my attention more fully, and I eventually began working in tandem with Dr. Drew Rendall (Psychology) and Dr. David Logue (Biology), eventually obtaining a BSc. in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy.

This is my Home

I was born and raised in the prairies of Alberta, Canada, calling Calgary my home for the first 23 years of my life. Calgary is a brilliant city that has a lot going on for it, and I greatly benefited from my early education there and from being surrounded by an excellent balance of nature and industry.

Most of my family and many of my friends can still be found in Calgary, and I will always consider it home, despite my career taking me away from it.

This is my Future

Who knows what the future holds? As an academic in the early stages of his career currently searching for Postdocs the future is uncertain but promising. I have a number of ongoing projects that I’m working on and very broad interests, and am excited to see where I end up, and to contribute to research with new groups and new people.