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Nian Liu

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Nian Liu 劉念

Associate Professor, Chinese Languages and Culture

Kaufman Hall 103A

(405) 325-8622


Dr. Nian Liu is associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, where she conducts interdisciplinary research on cognitive linguistics and Chinese humanities. She currently serves as Assistant Chair of the department and have served as academic advisor and section head of the Chinese Program. She was a visiting scholar at University of California, San Diego, University of Latvia, Peking University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong working on several cross-linguistic comparison projects.

Her research interests cover diverse topics including linguistic relativity, simulation semantics, bilingualism and Chinese language processing. Her main research projects explore the relationship between language, culture and cognition using behavioral and neuroimaging experimentations. Several of her research projects and internationally-cooperative projects have been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Ministry of Education of China, and OU Research Council.

Dr. Liu loves teaching and mentoring her students. She is unsatisfied with passive learning, and expects students not just to engage in class (a given), but also to carry out and present substantial scientific research, in the process illustrating for them the real-world applications of the discipline. Several of her Honors Research students have successfully developed projects that have been selected and funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

Dr. Liu was awarded the Cecil W. Woods Memorial Award for Teaching (2020) and was also a recipient of the Walton Prize awarded by CLTA (Chinese Language Teachers Association) in 2013. She currently serves as the Review Editor of Cognitive Semantics. She was just elected Executive Director of the American Society of Shufa Calligraphy Education, an NGO that serves the needs and interests of educators, researchers, and enthusiasts of East Asian calligraphy (Chinese shufa書法 , Japanese shodō 書道, Korean seoye 書藝 서예) in North America and beyond.

Selected Refereed Publications

Li, Y., Yang, Y., Wang, X., Liu, N., Jiang, K., Zhang, S. & Qiu, J. (2021). Cognitive inhibition mediates the relationship between ESL listening proficiency and English spoken word segmentation in Chinese learners: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study. Journal of Neurolinguistics, vol. 59, 100987.

Kuehster, L. & Liu, N. (2020). The effect of language on conceptualizing event sequences. 中美人文学刊 [Journal of Sino-American Humanity Studies], Vol. 5, 70-80.

Li, Y., Yang, Y., Tang, A. C., Liu, N., Wang, X., Du, Y., & Hu, W. (2020). English spoken word segmentation activates the prefrontal cortex and temporo-parietal junction in Chinese ESL learners: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study. Brain Research, 1733, 146693. 

Liu, N. & Zhang, W. (2018). 网络新生混成字的形成以及识别中的认知机制 [The cognitive mechanisms under formation and recognition of Chinese neo-blending characters]. 民俗典籍文字研究 [Research on Folklore, Classics and Chinese Characters]. Vol. 22, 225-233.

Liu, N., & Bergen, B. (2016). When do language understanders mentally simulate locations? Cognitive Linguistics, Vol. 17, No. 2, 181-203.

Liu, N. (2016). Tone 3 Sandhi in Mandarin Chinese: phonological rule or process? Journal of Sinology. Vol. 10, 48-71.

Liu, N. (2016). 对孤立语词形变化现象存在性的再讨论 [On the evidence of morphology in isolating languages]. 民俗典籍文字研究 [Research on Folklore, Classics and Chinese Characters]. Vol. 18, 181-198.

Stabile, C., Liu, N., Chen, V., & Deen, K. (2016). Cross-linguistic priming of the passive in Mandarin and English bilinguals. In D. Stringer et al. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 13th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition, (pp. 223-232). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Liu, N., & Shin, Y. (2016). When months are numbered while days are not: Korean children’s acquisition of time words. In M. Kenstowicz, T. Levin, & R. Masuda (Eds.) Japanese/Korean Linguistics 23, (pp. 1-10). Stanford CA: CSLI Publications.

Zhang, W., & Liu, N.  (2016). 认知语言学定量研究的几种新方法 [Advanced quantitative methods in cognitive linguistics research]. 外国语 [Journal of Foreign Languages], Vol. 1, 71-79.

Zhang, W., & Liu, N. (2015). 认知语言学研究的“实证周期”[The empirical cycle of cognitive linguistics research]. 外语研究 [Foreign Languages Research], Vol. 3, 18-29.

Liu, N. (2013). Implicit priming effects in Chinese word recall: the role of orthography and tones in the mental lexicon. International Journal of Computational Linguistics and Chinese Language Processing, Vol. 18, No. 3, 1-20.

Liu, N., & Bergen, B. (2013). When Tuesday comes before Threesday: Cross-linguistic differences in numerical transparency of time words predicts temporal reasoning strategy and performance. In M. Knauff, M., Pauen, N., Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.) Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 924-929). Austin TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Liu, N. (2010). Tuesday, Threesday, Foursday: Chinese names for the days of the week facilitate Chinese children's temporal reasoning. In W. Christensen, E. Schier, and J. Sutton (Eds.), ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (pp. 210-215). Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.


Ph.D., M.A. in Linguistics, University of Hawaii at Manoa

M.A. in Eastern Asian Languages and Linguistics, University of Hawaii at Manoa

M.A., B.A. in English Languages and linguistics, Wuhan University

Languages spoken/studied

Chinese Mandarin, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Chinese Wu dialect, Southwestern Mandarin, Classical Chinese

Courses offered

CHIN4453 Learning Chinese through Media (Fall semesters)

CHIN4543 Classical Chinese and Calligraphy (Spring semesters)

CHIN4993 Chinese Capstone (Spring semesters)

MLLL4453 Chinese Languages & Linguistics (Fall semesters)

MLLL4753 Language, Culture & Cognition (Fall semesters)

IAS3930/5830 Chinese Cultures, Languages & History (Summer, Journey to China program)


Chinese calligraphy, Piano, Guzheng (Chinese plucked zither), Erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle), Tea ceremony, Archery