Anne Christophe

Anne Christophe

Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique.            Babylab

How do infants acquire their mother tongue? 

They have to learn its words, its sound patterns, and its syntactic characteristics. For each of these domains, being able to rely on knowledge from the other domains would simplify the learner's task. For instance, since syntax specifies the relationships between the words in a sentence, it makes sense to assume that infants need access to words and their meanings in order to acquire syntax. On the other hand, Lila Gleitman showed, very convincingly, that acquiring word meanings was a difficult problem that would be much simplified if infants had access to some aspects of syntactic structure (Gleitman, 1990). This leads to an apparent paradox, or 'bootstrapping problem': the lexicon is necessary for syntactic acquisition, and syntax is necessary for lexical acquisition. 

These potential circularities can partially be solved if infants can learn some aspects of the structure of their language through a surface analysis of the speech input they are exposed to. In my work, I focus on phrasal prosody and function words, showing that infants acquire these aspects of their mother tongue early, on the basis of bottom-up analysis of the speech input. I suggest that these two sources of information may allow them to start building a rough syntactic analysis of the sentences they hear, the syntactic skeleton.

Photo credit: Gil Lefauconnier

Curriculum Vitae


(anne.christophe   at

Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique.
29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.
tel: (33 1) 44 32 26 18, fax: (33 1) 44 32 26 30.

last modified: 19-02-2016

Curriculum Vitae:

Born 14th January 1967, in Metz, France. French nationality, married, four children.

Professional experience and education:

2010-present      Director of the Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, (LSCP) EHESS-ENS-CNRS (UMR 8554) in Paris.(deputy director 2004-2009). 

2008-present      CNRS senior researcher (DR) at the LSCP.
2006                   'Habilitation a Diriger des Recherches', Universite Paris VI. Title "Bootstrapping lexical and syntactic acquisition".

1995-2008         CNRS junior researcher (CR) at the LSCP.

1994-1995         Post-doc at the Cognitive Development Unit, MRC, in London; director: Pr John Morton financed by the European Community "Human Capital and Mobility" programme.

1993                   PhD in Cognitive Psychology, EHESS, PARIS, with distinction. Director: Dr Jacques Mehler Title: "The role of prosody in segmenting speech into words.".
1990                    James McDonnell Foundation Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College and Medical School (USA).

1989                   Diploma at Ecole Polytechnique (Paris).


2014-2017         Grant from the French Agence Nationale pour la Recherche, "Language Learning in Context", with Sharon Peperkamp.
2012-2015         Grant from the 'Fondation de France', "Early syntactic and lexical acquisition: computational and experimental approaches".
2010-2013         Grant from the French Agence Nationale pour la Recherche, "Bootstrapping Language Acquisition", with Sharon Peperkamp.
2005-2008         Grant from the French Agence Nationale pour la Recherche, "Acquisition precoce du langage : approches experimentales et computationnelles", with Sharon Peperkamp.
2004-2007         Grant from the French ministry of research, "ACI Jeunes Chercheurs et Jeunes Chercheuses", "Acquisition precoce de la syntaxe et du lexique".
1998                   "Bronze Medal" from the CNRS.
1996-1997          "European Research Grant" from the "European Research Foundation": "The role of intonation in early language acquisition. In collaboration with  Josiane Bertoncini, (Laboratoire Cognition et Developpement, Paris), Laura Bosch (University of Barcelona) and John Morton (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, London).
1993                    Award of the best PhD thesis defended at the EHESS in 1993.
1989-1993           Research scholarship from the "Direction de la Recherche, des Etudes et de la Technologie."

International collaborations (past and present): John Trueswell (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), Jeff Lidz (Maryland, USA), Daniel Swingley (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), Cynthia Fisher (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Reiko Mazuka (Riken Brain Science Institute, Japan), Angela Friederici (Max Planck Institut for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany), Toben Mintz (University of Southern California, USA),  Roger Wales (La Trobe University, Australia), James Morgan (Brown University, Providence, USA); Nuria Sebastian-Galles and Laura Bosch (University of Barcelona, Spain), Marina Nespor (Milan, Italy); Teresa Guasti (Milan, Italy).

Supervised PhD theses:

Dautriche, I. (2015). Weaving an ambiguous lexicon. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universite Paris Descartes, Paris. pdf

Costa, M. (2015). Argument structure in language acquisition: an ERP study. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universidade Federal do Rio do Janeiro.

Brusini, P. (2012). Decouvrir les noms et les verbes: quand les classes semantiques initialisent les categories syntaxiques. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universite Paris VI. 

Cauvet, E. (2012). Traitement des structures syntaxiques dans le langage et la musique. Main supervisor: Christophe Pallier. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universite Paris VI.

Bernal, S. (2006). De l'arbre (syntaxique) au fruit (du sens): interactions des acquisitions lexicale et syntaxique chez l'enfant de moins de 2 ans. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universite Paris VI. pdf.

Millotte, S. (2005). Le role de la prosodie dans le traitement syntaxique adulte et l'acquisition de la syntaxe. Unpublished PhD thesis, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. pdf

Gout, A. (2001). Etapes precoces de l'acquisition du lexique. Unpublished PhD thesis, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. pdf

Editorial activities:
Associate Editor for Developmental Science, 2009-2013.
Associate Editor for Language & Speech, 2002-2009.
Member of the Editorial Board of Language Learning and Development, since 2003, Language Acquisition, since 2011, and Cognition, 2000-2004.
Invited expert for a number of peer-reviewed journals, including PNAS, Science, Nature, Psychological Science, Cognitive PsychologyTrends in Cognitive Science, etc.

Publications :

Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

Brusini, P., Dehaene-Lambertz, G., van Heugten, M., de Carvalho, A., Goffinet, F., Fiévet, A.-C. & Christophe, A. (2016). Ambiguous function words do not prevent 18-month-olds from building accurate syntactic category expectations: an ERP study. Neuropsychologia. pdf

de Carvalho, A., Lidz, J., Tieu, L., Bleam, T. & Christophe, A. (2016). English-speaking preschoolers can use phrasal prosody for syntactic parsing. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 139(6), EL216-EL222. pdf  link

Brusini, P., Dehaene-Lambertz, G., Dutat, M., Goffinet, F. & Christophe, A. (2016). ERP evidence for on-line syntactic computations in 2-year-olds. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 164-173. pdf

de Carvalho, A., Dautriche, I. & Christophe, A. (2016). Preschoolers use phrasal prosody on-line to constrain syntactic analysis. Developmental Science, 19, 235-250 pdf

Dautriche, I., Chemla, E. & Christophe, A. (in press). Word learning: homophony and the distribution of learning exemplars. Language Learning and Development, in press.

Brusini, P., Brun, M., Brunet, I. & Christophe, A. (2015). Listeners exploit syntactic structure on-line to restrict their lexical search to a subclass of verbs. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1841doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01841. pdf

Dautriche, I., Swingley, D. & Christophe, A. (2015). Learning novel neighbors: Syntactic category matters. Cognition, 143, 77-86. pdf

van Heugten, M. & Christophe, A. (2015). Infants' acquisition of grammatical gender co-occurrences. Infancy, 20, 675-683. pdf

Gutman, A., Dautriche,I., Crabbe, B. & Christophe, A. (2015). Bootstrapping the prosodic bootstrapper: Probabilistic labeling of prosodic phrases. Language Acquisition, 22, 285-309. pdf

Dautriche*,I., Cristia*, A., Brusini, P., Yuan, S., Fisher, C. & Christophe,A. (2014). Toddlers default to canonical surface-to-meaning mapping when learning verbs. Child Development, 85, 1168-1180. pdf

Cauvet, E., Limissuri, R., Millotte, S., Skoruppa, K., Cabrol, D. & Christophe, A. (2014). Syntactic context constrains lexical access in French 18-month-olds. Language Learning and Development, 10, 1-18. pdf

Roux, P., Vistoli, D., Christophe, A., Passerieux, C., Brunet-Gouet, E. (2014). ERP evidence of a Stroop effect in emotional speech related to social anhedonia. Journal of Psychophysiology, 28, 11-21. pdf

Kouider, S., Stahlhut, C., Gelskov, S., Barbosa, L., Dutat, M., de Gardelle, V., Christophe, A., Dehaene, S. & Dehaene-Lambertz, G. (2013). A neural marker of perceptual consciousness in infants. Science, 50, 3736–3744. pdf

Skoruppa, K., Pons, F., Bosch, L., Christophe, A., Cabrol, D. & Peperkamp, S. (2013). The development of word stress processing in French and Spanish infants. Language Learning and Development, 9, 88-104. pdf

Mazuka, R., Cao, Y. Dupoux, E. & Christophe, A. (2011). The development of a phonological illusion: A cross-linguistic study with Japanese and French infants. Developmental Science, 14, 693-699. pdf

Hannagan, T., Dupoux, E & Christophe, A. (2011). Holographic string encoding. Cognitive Science, 35, 79-118. pdf

Roux, P., Christophe, A. & Passerieux, C. (2010). The emotional paradox: dissociation between explicit and implicit processing of emotional prosody in schizophrenia. Neuropsychologia, 48, 3642-3649. pdf

Bernal, S., Dehaene-Lambertz, G. Millotte, S. & Christophe, A. (2010). Two-year-olds compute syntactic structure on-line. Developmental Science, 13, 69-73. pdf

Millotte, S., Margules, S., Dutat, M., Bernal, S. & Christophe, A. (2010). Phrasal prosody constrains word segmentation in French 16-month-olds. Journal of Portuguese Linguistics, 9, 67-86. pdf

Parlato, E., Christophe, A., Hirose, Y. & Dupoux, E. (2010). Plasticity of illusory vowel perception in Brazilian-Japanese bilinguals. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127, 3738-3748.

Mampe, B., Friederici, A., Christophe, A. & Wermke, K. (2009). Newborns' cry melody is shaped by their native language. Current Biology, 19, 1994-1997. pdf

Skoruppa, K., Pons, F., Christophe, A., Bosch, L., Dupoux, E., Sebastián-Gallés, N., Alves Limissuri, R. & Peperkamp, S. (2009). Language-specific stress perception by nine-month-old French and Spanish infants. Developmental Science, 12, 914-919. pdf 

Chemla, E., Mintz, T., Bernal, S. & Christophe, A. (2009). Categorizing words using ‘Frequent Frames’: What cross-linguistic analyses reveal about distributional acquisition strategies. Developmental Science, 12, 396-406pdf 

Millotte, S., René, A., Wales, R. & Christophe, A. (2008). Phonological phrase boundaries constrain the on-line syntactic analysis of spoken sentences. Journal of Experimental Psychology : Learning, Memory & Cognition, 34, 874-885pdf

Christophe, A., Millotte, S., Bernal, S. & Lidz, J. (2008). Bootstrapping lexical and syntactic acquisition. Language & Speech, 51, 61-75. pdf

Friederici, A.D., Friedrich, M., & Christophe, A. (2007). Language experience affects brain responses in 4-month-old infants. Current Biology, 17, 1208–1211. pdf

Bernal, S., Lidz, J., Millotte, S., & Christophe, A. (2007). Syntax constrains the acquisition of verb meaning.  Language Learning & Development, 3, 325-341. pdf

Millotte, S., Wales, R. & Christophe, A. (2007). Phrasal prosody disambiguates syntax. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22, 898-909. pdf

Christophe, A., Peperkamp, S., Pallier, C., Block, E., & Mehler, J. (2004). Phonological phrase boundaries constrain lexical access: I. Adult data. Journal of Memory and Language, 51, 523-547. pdf

Gout, A., Christophe, A. & Morgan, J. (2004). Phonological phrase boundaries constrain lexical access: II. Infant data. Journal of Memory and Language, 51, 547-567. pdf

Dehaene-Lambertz, G., Pena, M., Christophe, A., Landrieu, P. (2004). Phoneme discrimination in a neonate with a left sylvian infarct. Brain & Language, 88, 26-38. pdf

Christophe, A., Gout, A., Peperkamp, S. & Morgan, J. (2003). Discovering words in the continuous speech stream: The role of prosody. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 585-598. pdf

Christophe, A., Guasti, M. T., Nespor, M., & van Ooyen, B. (2003). Prosodic structure and syntactic acquisition: the case of the head-complement parameter. Developmental Science, 6, 213-222. pdf

Gout, A. Christophe, A. & Dupoux, E. (2002) Orientation latency as a discrimination technique. Infancy, 3, 247-257. pdf

Christophe, A., Mehler, J. & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2001). Perception of prosodic boundary correlates by newborn infants. Infancy, 2, 385-394. pdf

Christophe, A., & Morton, J. (1998). Is Dutch native English? Linguistic analysis by 2-month-olds. Developmental Science, 1, 215-219. pdf

Pallier, C., Sebastián-Gallés, N., Dupoux, E., Christophe, A., & Mehler, J. (1998). Perceptual adjustment to time-compressed speech: A cross-linguistic study. Memory and Cognition, 26, 844-851. pdf

Christophe, A., Guasti, M. T., Nespor, M., Dupoux, E., & van Ooyen, B. (1997). Reflections on prosodic bootstrapping: its role for lexical and syntactic acquisition. Language and Cognitive Processes, 12, 585-612. pdf

Floccia, C., Christophe, A., & Bertoncini, J. (1997). High-amplitude sucking and newborns: The quest for underlying mechanisms. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 64, 175-198. pdf

Hesketh, S., Christophe, A., & Dehaene-Lambertz, G. (1997). Non-nutritive sucking and sentence processing. Infant Behavior and Development, 20, 263-269. pdf

Pallier, C., Christophe, A., & Mehler, J. (1997). Language-specific listening. Trends in Cognitive Science, 1, 129-132. pdf

Christophe, A., & Dupoux, E. (1996). Bootstrapping lexical acquisition: the role of prosodic structure. The Linguistic Review, 13, 383-412.

Grant, J., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Berthoud, I., & Christophe, A. (1996). Is the language of people with Williams Syndrome mere mimicry? Verbal short-term memory in a foreign language. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 5, 615-628.

Christophe, A., Dupoux, E., Bertoncini, J., & Mehler, J. (1994). Do infants perceive word boundaries? An empirical study of the bootstrapping of lexical acquisition. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 95, 1570-1580. pdf

Christophe, A., & Morton, J. (1994). Comprehending Baby-Think. Nature, 370, 250-251. pdf

Mehler, J., & Christophe, A. (1994). Language in the infants' mind. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences), 346(13-20). pdf

Pallier, C., Sebastian, N., Felguera, T., Christophe, A., & Mehler, J. (1993). Attentional allocation within syllabic structure of spoken words. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 373-389. pdf

Christophe, A., Pallier, C., Bertoncini, J., & Mehler, J. (1991). A la recherche d'une unité : segmentation et traitement de la parole. L'Année Psychologique, 91, 59-86.

Book chapters:

Ramus, F., Peperkamp, S., Christophe, A., Jacquemot, C., Kouider, S. & Dupoux, E. (in press). A psycholinguistic perspective on the acquisition of phonology. In C. Fougeron (Ed.), Laboratory Phonology 10. Paris.

Darcy, I., Ramus, F., Christophe, A., Kinzler, K. & Dupoux, E. (2009). Phonological knowledge in compensation for native and non-native assimilation. In F.  Kügler, C. Fery et R. Van de Vijver (Eds.) Variation and Gradience in Phonetics and Phonology. (pp. 265-309).

Christophe, A., Millotte, S. & Bernal, S. (2008). Initialiser l’acquisition précoce du langage. In M. Kail & M. Fayol (Eds.) Acquisition des Langues. (pp. 67-78). Paris: CNRS Editions.

Christophe, A. (2008). Psychologie cognitive et éducation. In D. Andler & B. Guerry, Apprendre demain : Sciences cognitives et éducation à l’ère du numérique. Paris : Hatier.

Christophe, A., Millotte, S., Bernal, S., Diop, C. & Margules, S. (2006). Perception du langage chez le nourrisson : Apprendre les mots, dans B. Guéguen (Ed.) Neurophysiologie du Langage. Paris: Elsevier.

Gout, A. & Christophe, A. (2006). The role of prosodic bootstrapping on syntactic and lexical acquisition. In L.M.S. Corrêa (Eds.) Language acquisition and language disorders. (pp. 103-127). São Paulo: Edições Loyola.

Christophe, A. (2002). Comment étudier le développement. In E. Dupoux (Ed.), Langage, Cerveau et Développement Cognitif: Essais en l'Honneur de Jacques Mehler. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Christophe, A. (2001). How to study development. In E. Dupoux (Ed.), Language, Brain and Cognitive Development: Essays in Honor of Jacques Mehler. (pp. 259-262). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Guasti, M. T., Nespor, M., Christophe, A., & van Ooyen, B. (2001). Pre-lexical setting of the head-complement parameter through prosody. In J. Weissenborn & B. Höhle (Eds.), Approaches to Bootstrapping: Phonological, lexical, syntactic and neurophysiological aspects of early language acquisition (Vol. 1, pp. 231-248). Amsterdam - Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Mehler, J., & Christophe, A. (2000). Acquisition of languages: Infant and adult data. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The New Cognitive Neurosciences. Second Edition (pp. 897-908). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Mehler, J., Christophe, A., & Ramus, F. (2000). How infants acquire language: some preliminary observations. In A. Marantz & Y. Miyashita & W. O'Neil (Eds.), Image, Language, Brain: Papers from the first Mind Articulation Project symposium (pp. 51-75). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dehaene-Lambertz, G., Christophe, A., & van Ooyen, B. (2000). Les bases cérébrales de l'acquisition du langage. In M. Kail & M. Fayol (Eds.), L'émergence du langage (pp. 61-93). Paris: PUF.

Mehler, J., Pallier, C., & Christophe, A. (1998). Language and Cognition. In M. Sabourin, F. M. I. Craik, & M. Robert (Eds.), Advances in Psychological Science: Biological and Cognitive Aspects (pp. 381-398). Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press.

Christophe, A., Bertoncini, J., & Floccia, C. (1997). Perception de la parole chez le nourrisson. In J. Lambert & J. L. Nespoulos (Eds.), Perception Auditive et Compréhension du Langage: Etat Initial, Etat Stable, et Pathologie (pp. 25-37). Marseille: Solal Editeurs.

Nespor, M., Guasti, M. T., & Christophe, A. (1996). Selecting word order: the Rhythmic Activation Principle. In U. Kleinhenz (Ed.), Interfaces in Phonology (pp. 1-26). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Mehler, J., Bertoncini, J., & Christophe, A. (1995). Environnement et déterminants biologiques du langage. In C. Amiel-Tison & A. Stewart (Eds.), L'enfant nouveau-né: un cerveau pour la vie (pp. 95-105). Paris: Editions INSERM.

Mehler, J., & Christophe, A. (1995). Maturation and learning of language in the first year of life. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences: A handbook for the field (pp. 943-954). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Mehler, J., Bertoncini, J., & Christophe, A. (1994). Environmental effects on the biological determinants of language. In C. Amiel-Tison & A. Stewart (Eds.), The newborn infant: One brain for life (pp. 81-90). Paris: Editions INSERM.

Christophe, A., Dupoux, E., & Mehler, J. (1993). How do infants extract words from the speech stream? A discussion of the bootstrapping problem for lexical acquisition. In E. V. Clark (Ed.), Proceedings of the 24th Annual Child Language Research Forum (pp. 209-224): Stanford: CSLI.

Mehler, J., & Christophe, A. (1992). Speech processing and segmentation in natural languages. In Y. Tohkura, E. Vatikiotis-Bateson, & Y. Sagisaka (Eds.), Speech Perception, Production, and Linguistic Structure (pp. 221-238). Tokyo and Amsterdam: Ohmsha and IOS PRESS.

Miscellaneous :

Millotte, S. & Christophe, A. (2009). A la d\e'couverte des mots: le rôle de la prosodie dans l'acquisition du lexique et de la syntaxe. Enfance, 3, 283-292. pdf

Millotte, S., Bernal, S. & Christophe, A. (2007). Initialiser l’acquisition du lexique et de la syntaxe. Revue Rééducation Orthophonique, 229, 27-38.

Christophe, A., Margules, S., Millotte, S. & Bernal, S. (2006). L’acquisition du langage. Médecine et Enfance, 26, 229-234.

Diop, C., Bernal, S., Margules, S. & Christophe, A. (2005). Comment apprend-on si vite à parler ? La Recherche, 388, 52-56. pdf

Christophe, A. (2002). L’apprentissage du langage: une capacité innée? Intellectica, 34, 189-210. 

Christophe, A. (2001). The role of phonological phrases in early language acquisition. Proceedings from Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition, Palmela, Portugal.

Christophe, A. (2000). L'apprentissage du langage (les bases cérébrales du langage). In Y. Michaud (Ed.), Université de Tous les Savoirs (Vol. 2, pp. 41-55). Paris: Odile Jacob.

Mehler, J, Christophe, A. & Pallier, C. (1996) Psychologie cognitive et acquisition des langues. Médecine/Sciences, 12, 94-99.

Christophe, A. (1996). La musique pour les paroles. Pour la Science, 228, p. 31.

Christophe, A. (1996). L'apprentissage d'une langue par les bébés: l'intonation serait déterminante. CNRS INFO N° 323, 9-10. Repris dans Le Monde, Le Point, le Journal du CNRS, L'Express, AFP Sciences, France-Antilles, Le Progrès, Panorama du Médecin, La Dépêche, la Radio Nationale Suédoise, la Radio Allemande.

Christophe, A. & Mehler, J. (1996). Comment le langage, le calcul, et le raisonnement viennent à l'homme. Rendez-vous Scientifiques 94-95: Nouvelles des laboratoires des Sciences de la Vie, 101-103.

Christophe, A. (1996). Intonation et acquisition du langage. Lettre Bio, 60, p 7.

Christophe, A. (1996). Traiter la parole, acquérir le langage: deux facettes d'un même mécanisme. Revue Scientifique et Technique de la Défense, 105-118.

Nespor, M., Guasti, M.T. & Christophe, A. (1995). What can infants learn from prosodic phonology? GLOW newsletter.

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