You are here: Home News Two Veni grants for MPI researchers

Two Veni grants for MPI researchers

Marisa Casillas and Tessa Verhoef have been awarded prestigious Veni grants from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO). Veni grants enable promising young scientists to further develop their own research for a period of three years.
Two Veni grants for MPI researchers

This year, the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) awarded 158 Veni grants of up to 250,000 euros, choosing from a pool of 1056 postdoctoral applicants. The grants will give Marisa Casillas and Tessa Verhoef the opportunity to conduct the following projects at the MPI:

Child rearing and language development in two indigenous communities

Marisa Casillas

Marisa Casillas is currently working at Radboud University and is a visiting researcher at the MPI (Language and Cognition Department). This grant will enable her to investigate how cultural differences in caregiver-child interaction affect the way children develop language skills. Casillas says, “We know that children learn language by hearing and using it with their caregivers, but caregivers interact with their children in different ways around the globe.” Casillas will study two cultures with very different styles of caregiver-child interaction: Mayan and Papua New Guinean.

Casillas has already collected some data with a Tzetal Mayan community in Mexico and sets off at the end of this month to begin data collection in Papua New Guinea. She adds: “Here in the Western world, there’s a lot of discussion about how parents can support their children’s early communicative development. We stand to learn a great deal from families in non-Western settings. I’m thrilled to do this work at the MPI, where there is a strong tradition of fieldwork and interdisciplinary research on human language.”

Where do meaning and structure in languages come from?

Tessa VerhoefTessa Verhoef is currently working in the Center for Research in Language at the University of California, San Diego. This grant allows her to pursue her work on the evolution of structure in language. She will mimic language evolution processes in the lab by letting people learn a new, artificial language, but she will also look into natural languages. Verhoef tells how: "In English we could say: 'I look forward to being in the Netherlands', so we see the future as lying before us. But in some languages the association between time and space works differently. Where such differences come from and how we can explain these linguistic patterns is still unknown.'

Having only recently learned of her Veni award, Verhoef is uncertain when exactly she will start in the Netherlands. She says: "The MPI is one of the leading institutes in the world for the kind of research that I want to do, so this is a great reason to now make the crossing."

MPI Alumnus

Joost Rommers also received a Veni grant to study how predictions help readers and listeners recognize words quickly. Rommers was a PhD student and post doc at the Psychology of Language Department. He will be conducting his research at the Radboud University.

In total, nineteen Veni grants were awarded to Radboud University, Radboud university medical center and MPI. Radboud University listed all projects here (in Dutch), and for the complete list see the NWO press release here.


About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Max Planck Institute
for Psycholinguistics


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn

Image right