Research Theme Fellow: Education and Work

Dr Lyn Tieu

School of Education

Dr Lyn Tieu is a linguist and Senior Research Fellow in the School of Education.

Lyn completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Connecticut in 2013. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Centre for Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD) at Macquarie University.

Lyn’s research focuses primarily on children’s acquisition of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Many of her projects have investigated children’s production and comprehension of different kinds of sentence structures, their understanding of logical expressions, and their ability to make inferences that go beyond the literal meanings of the sentences that they hear.

“For example, if I say, ‘John has two children,’ native speakers are likely to infer that John has exactly two children, even though the sentence would still literally be true if John had three children,” Lyn explains. “Or as another example, if I tell you that Jane or Mary won a prize, you’re likely to infer that only one of them won a prize, even though the sentence is logically compatible with both of them having won a prize. We want to understand how children engage with these kinds of inferences, and how these inferences develop in childhood.”

Lyn first discovered a fascination for linguistics during her undergraduate studies in Canada. “Being able to infer things that go beyond what is explicitly asserted is a big part of everyday communication,” says Lyn. “As adult native speakers, we are constantly inferring things beyond what people are literally saying. It’s a big part of being able to understand not just what people are saying, but why they’re saying what they’re saying in a given context. It’s important to understand how this ability develops in childhood, as this has consequences for literacy, communication, and peer interaction, and is essential for how children navigate their social world.”

Lyn also intends to expand her research focus to children with linguistic and communicative difficulties, including those with hearing loss and language impairment.

Dr Tieu Joined Western Sydney University in November 2017 as a Senior Research Fellow working in the  Education and Work theme. She aims to use this role as a catalyst to build cross-disciplinary research connections and further explore the practical applications of her work. This could include designing better methods for assessing linguistic development in the education system or assisting clinicians in their work with children experiencing language or speech impairments.

Lyn is also a member of the Speech & Language Program at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour & Development, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University, and an associate investigator at the CCD.