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Professor Elena Lieven

Photograph of Elena Lieven


  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0)161 275 2580
  • Alternative Telephone: +44 (0)161 275 2444 (Child Study Centre)
  • Fax: +44 (0)161 275-2588

Child Study Centre
School of Psychological Sciences
Coupland 1 Building
University of Manchester
M13 9PL


Principal areas of research: The emergence and construction of grammar; The relationship between input characteristics and the process of language development; Variation in children’s communicative environments.


Elena Lieven did her undergraduate degree and her Ph.D. on individual differences in early language development in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. She came to Manchester in 1979. During her years at Manchester she developed close research links with members of the Department of Psychology in the University of California, Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics at Nijmegen and spent parts of her sabbatical leaves in both places. She was Editor of the Journal of Child Language from 1996 - 2005. In 1998 Professor Lieven was granted long-term unpaid leave to work at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. This funded the Max Planck Child Study Centre  from 1998-2014 which was set up in the Manchester Department when she moved to Leipzig.  In 2012, she moved back to work in the Manchester School and, as well as continuing as Director of the Child Study Centre, took on the role of Centre lead in the newly formed Centre for Developmental Science and Disorders in the Institute of Brain, Behaviour and Mental Health.  In 2014, the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD) of which Elena is the Centre Director, was established across the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster on a 5-year grant.

Collaborators and affiliated staff

  • Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig

Selected publications


  • Matthews, D., Behne, T., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M (2012).

    Origins of the human pointing gesture: a training study. Dev Sci, 15(6), 817-29. eScholarID:196527 | PMID:23106736 | DOI:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01181.x

  • Matthews, D., Butcher, J., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M (2012).

    Two- and four-year-olds learn to adapt referring expressions to context: effects of distracters and feedback on referential communication. Top Cogn Sci, 4(2), 184-210. eScholarID:196491 | PMID:22389057 | DOI:10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01181.x

  • Rowland, C., Chang, F., Ambridge, B., Pine, J. & Lieven, E (2012).

    The development of abstract syntax: evidence from structural priming and the lexical boost. Cognition, 125(1), 49-63. eScholarID:196308 | PMID:22986018 | DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.06.008


  • Krajewski,G., Theakston, A. , Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M. (2011).

    How Polish children switch from one case to another when using novel nouns: Challenges for models of inflectional morphology. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26, 830-861. eScholarID:124465 | DOI:10.1080/01690965.2010.506062

  • Stumper, B., Bannard, C., Lieven, E. and Tomasello, M. (2011).

    “Frequent Frames” in German Child- Directed Speech: A Limited Cue to Grammatical Categories. Cognitive Science, 35, 35, 1190. eScholarID:175790 | DOI:doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01187.


  • Brandt, S., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M. (2010).

    Development of word order in German complement-clause constructions: Effects of input frequencies, lexical items, and discourse function. Language, eScholarID:124443 | DOI:10.1353/lan.2010.0010

  • Lieven, E. (2010).

    Input and first language acquisition: Evaluating the role of frequency. Lingua, 2546. eScholarID:124449 | DOI:10.1016/j.lingua.2010.06.005

  • Matthews, D., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M (2010).

    What's in a manner of speaking? Children's sensitivity to partner-specific referential precedents. Dev Psychol, 46(4), 749-60. eScholarID:196501 | PMID:20604599 | DOI:10.1037/a0019657


  • Bannard, C., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M (2009).

    Modeling children's early grammatical knowledge. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(41), 17284. eScholarID:78716 | PMID:19805057 | DOI:10.1073/pnas.0905638106

  • Chan A, Lieven e, Tomasello M. (2009).

    Children's Understanding of the Agent-Patient relations in the Transitive construction: Cross Linguistic comparisons between Cantonese, German and English. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(2), 267-300. eScholarID:76444 | DOI:10.1515/COGL.2009.015

  • Kirjavainen, M., Theakston, A. & Lieven, E (2009).

    Can input explain children's me-for-I errors? J Child Lang, 36(5), 1091-114. eScholarID:196484 | PMID:19220924 | DOI:10.1017/S0305000909009350

  • Lieven E, Salomo D, Tomasello M. (2009).

    Two-year-old children's production of multiword utterances: A usage-based analysis. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(3), 481-508. eScholarID:76446 | DOI:10.1515/COGL.2009.022

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