Dr. Carmen Saldana

Postdoctoral Researcher @

Department of Comparative Language Science, University of Zurich

Contact me @ carmen.saldanagascon@uzh.ch

OSF: osf.io/3zm7y/

View my CV


I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Comparative Language Science at the University of Zurich, where I teach and research the cognitive constraints that shape language structure using a variety of corpus and experimental methods. In particular, I investigate the impact of individual learning biases on cross-linguistic regularities in morphological paradigms and morpheme order.

I was previously a postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Centre for Language Evolution in Edinburgh on Kenny Smith's ERC project entitled "The Evolution of Linguistic Complexity", where we explored how pressures imposed on the user during learning and communication drive the evolution of linguistic complexity. To further explore the nature of these pressures in language evolution, we collaborated with the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (Aix‐Marseille Université) to investigate the mechanisms driving cumulative cultural evolution as well as regularity extraction across human and non-human primates. I was also a collaborator in Jennifer Culbertson's ERC project "Syntax Shaped By Cognition", where we used artificial language learning experiments to investigate the cognitive constraints underlying typological universals in morpheme order.

In my PhD dissertation "Simplifying linguistic complexity: culture and cognition in language evolution" (copy available here), I investigated how language learning and use impact the complexity of morphological and syntactic systems. I use artificial language learning and iterated learning experimental paradigms to investigate the conditions under which complexity in these domains (morphology and syntax) emerges, spreads, and reduces, providing experimental analogues to processes in natural language change and formation.

Research output

Under review

  • Saldana, C.*, Herce, B.*, & Bickel, B. (in revision) Positional splits in person-number agreement paradigms reflect a naturalness gradient: Typological and experimental evidence. Preprint available at https://osf.io/aymw5 [OSF project]

  • Schick, J., Saldana, C., Kathiresan, T., Zuberbühler, K., & Stoll, S. (submitted) Compositional capacities in infants: Prelinguistic vocalisations disambiguate declarative and imperative pointing gestures. [OSF project]


  • Saldana, C.*, Herce, B.* & Bickel, B. (2022) More or less unnatural: Semantic similarity shapes the learnability and cross-linguistic distribution of syncretism in morphological paradigms. Open Mind. [OSF project] [article]

  • Maldonado, M., & Saldana, C. (2022) Interpretations of plurality in personal pronouns differ across person categories: An experimental study. Proceedings of the 23rd Amsterdam Colloquium. [OSF project] [article]

  • Saldana, C., Claidière, N., Fagot, J. & Smith, K. (2022) Probability Matching is Not the Default Decision Making Strategy in Human and Non-Human Primates. Scientific Reports. [OSF project] [article]

  • Saldana, C., Herce, B., & Bickel, B. (2022). A Naturalness Gradient Shapes the Learnability and Cross-Linguistic Distribution of Morphological Paradigms. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society. [OSF project 1] [OSF project 2][article]

  • Mansfield, J., Saldana, C., Hurst, P., Nordlinger, R., Stoll, S., Bickel, B. & Perfors, A. (2022) Category clustering and morphological learning. Cognitive Science. [OSF project] [article]


  • Saldana, C., Smith K., Kirby S. and Culbertson J. (2021) Is the strength of regularisation behaviour uniform across linguistic levels? A comparison between morphology and word order. Language Learning and Development. (Peter Jusczyk Best Paper Award )[OSF project] [article]

  • Saldana, C., Oseki, Y. & Culbertson, J. (2021) Cross-linguistic patterns of morpheme order reflect cognitive biases: An experimental study of case and number morphology. Journal of Memory and Language. [OSF project] [article]


  • Maldonado, M., Saldana, C. and Culbertson, J. (2020) Learning biases in person-number linearization. In M. Asatryan, Y. Song & A. Whitmal (Eds.), Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (Vol 2, pp. 163-176). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts GLSA. [OSF project] [pdf]

  • Saldana, C., Claidière, N., Fagot, J. & Smith, K. (2020). Rational After All: Changes in Probability Matching Behaviour Across Time in Humans and Monkeys. In S. Denison., M. Mack, Y. Xu, & B.C. Armstrong (Eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 752-758). Cognitive Science Society. [OSF project] [pdf]


  • Saldana C., Fagot, J., Kirby S., Smith K. and Claidière, N. (2019) High-fidelity copying is not necessarily the key to cumulative cultural evolution: a study with monkeys and children. Proceedings of the Royal Society B [article] [pdf] [data] [OSF project]

  • Saldana, C., Kirby S., Truswell R. and Smith K. (2019) Compositional hierarchical structure evolves through cultural transmission: an experimental study. Journal of Language Evolution. doi: 10.1093/jole/lzz002 [article] [data] [OSF project]

  • Saldana, C., Smith, K., Kirby, S., Fagot, J. & Claidière, N. (2019) Cumulative cultural evolution in a non-copying task in children and Guinea baboons. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [OSF project] [pdf]

  • Saldana, C., Oseki, Y. & Culbertson, J. (2019) Do cross-linguistic patterns of morpheme order reflect a cognitive bias? Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [OSF project] [pdf]

Up to 2018

  • Saldana, C., Kirby, S., Smith K. and Culbertson, J. (2017) Is the strength of regularisation behaviour uniform across linguistic levels? In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink & E. Davelaar (Eds.) Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

  • Saldaña Gascón, C. (2012) Estudio paremiológico intergeneracional. Paremia, 21 (2012), 187-196. Madrid: Centro Virtual Cervantes.


I have taught a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2018) and the University of Zurich (2019-present): Linguistic Theory from an Evolutionary Perspective (UZH), Current Advances in Evolutionary Linguistics (UZH), Morphology (UZH), Conditions of Language Dynamics (UZH), Introduction to Linguistics and English Language (UoE), Foundations of Language (UoE), Phonetic Analysis and Empirical Methods (UoE), Cross-linguistic variation (UoE), First Language Acquisition (UoE), Second Language Acquisition (UoE), Child Bilingualism (UoE), and Origins and Evolution of Language (UoE).