Skip Navigation

Nian Liu

Skip Side Navigation

Nian Liu

Associate Professor, Chinese Languages and Culture

Kaufman Hall 203A


View CV



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 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). She regularly offers CHIN 4453 Learning Chinese through Media, CHIN4543 Classical Chinese and Calligraphy, CHIN 4993 Chinese Capstone, MLLL 4453 Chinese Languages & Linguistics, MLLL 4753 Language, Culture & Cognition, and IAS 3930/5830 Chinese Cultures, Languages & History.

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 the journal Cognitive Semantics. In addition, she was 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 Publications:

Liu, N. (excepted publication Jan. 2022). Simulation semantics: How the body characterizes the mind. Invited book chapter in Thomas F.Y. Li. (Ed.) Handbook of Cognitive Semantics. New York: Brill.

Liu, N. (2021). 汉语动词偏好在报刊中的体现以及对母语为英语的汉语学习者写作的影响 [Verb Bias in Chinese and its Effect on L2 Chinese Learners’ Writing]. 国际汉语教学学报 [International Journal of Chinese Language Teaching], vol. 2(2), 31-41. DOI:

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. DOI:

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. DOI:

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. DOI:

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.


Ph.D. in Linguistics. University of Hawaii at Manoa. 2012.

M.A. in Eastern Asian Languages and Linguistics. University of Hawaii at Manoa. 2011.

M.A. in Linguistics. University of Hawaii at Mānoa. 2007.

M.A. in English Linguistics. Wuhan University. 2005.

B.A. in English Languages and Literatures, Minor in Journalism. Wuhan University. 2003


Teaching Schedule for Fall 2022

CHIN 4543 Classical Chin & Calligraphy