Anne Cutler’s enthusiastic scientific life

A recent discovery examined two groups of 30-year-old Dutch-speaking adults. One group was adopted from South Korea aged 3-6 months, or approximately 17 months, with no further Korean language experience. The control group was her 30-year-old native Dutch-speaking adult. Both groups underwent intensive training to identify her three “t” sounds that resemble Korean. These sounds are different from those used in Dutch, which has only one ‘t’ sound.

Anne Cutler in 1971.

Strikingly, both the early and late adopter groups learned the distinction faster than the control group. Cutler and her team found that adopted children unknowingly acquired a complete compilation of Korean audio by the age of three months. The adoptee was able to not only hear but also pronounce Korean sounds better than her native Dutch control group.

Cutler’s findings from infant studies help identify and treat infants and children who are at-risk or delayed in speech development. This longevity study helped drive mandatory newborn hearing screening in Australia.

Elizabeth Ann Cutler was born in Victoria in 1945 and educated in Tasmania. She often attributed her love and aptitude for languages ​​to her keen hearing and listening abilities, which she thought were hereditary. Her grandfather was a radio engineer and her great-aunt a pianist. Cutler said: People with keen hearing are good at distinguishing the sounds of foreign languages. ”

Cutler sometimes reflected, without bragging, that she never had to actually apply for a job. She taught German at Monash University before completing her PhD in Psycholinguistics at the University of Texas. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Sussex, she spent 11 years as a research scientist at the Medical Research Council’s Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, UK.

In 1993, she was appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (MPI) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (the first female director of the then 180-director MPI). In 2013 she returned to Australia where she attended the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behavior and Development at the University of Western Sydney and was instrumental in the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Cutler championed women’s causes in academia. She advocated quotas to address gender imbalance and inspired a new generation of female researchers. Her work in this field was inspired by what she experienced. She was repeatedly struck by how few women are in research positions in countries around the world.

She pondered and criticized the socio-cultural causes of this imbalance, and was acknowledged in Virginia Varian’s landmark book. why are you so slow?active participation of womenHer desire to challenge injustice is not for her own career, but for the careers of others, although “I live happily ever after without knowing all the missed opportunities,” she said. I came for

Cutler’s commitment to gender equality went beyond commentary. When she retired from MPI in 2011, she worked to get a travel grant to help female graduate students enter overseas laboratories as a postdoc. In June 2022, in the last week of her life, she succumbed to an opportunistic lung infection in Nijmegen and found herself unable to attend a conference in Spain, paying an advance to fund the travel expenses of a student from Africa. I arranged the registration. instead. Western Sydney University will establish a new fellowship scheme in Cutler’s name to support female Australian researchers traveling internationally, including financial support for her accompanying children.


What stands out in the memories of colleagues who knew her is Cutler’s wit and humor, as well as her love of good food, fine wine and good coffee. Throughout his internationally devoted life to science, Cutler has forged friendships, extensive networks, and strong partnerships that have spanned decades around the world. When she arrived in a strange city, she always seemed to know where to find a good restaurant.

Anne Cutler’s lifetime achievements have been recognized by at least eight academies of science. She was elected to the Australian Academy of Humanities in her 2008 and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences in 2009. In 1999, Cutler was the first female scientist to receive the Spinoza Prize from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. In 2008 she was elected a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences and in 2015 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2018 her Distinguished Professor title was awarded to her at the University of Western Sydney and in 2020 Cutler was appointed to the British Academy.

Ann Cutler gives her first public lecture in 2015 at the ARC Center of Excellence for Language Dynamics: How the Language You Speak Guides the Way You Hear.

Ann Cutler gives her first public lecture in 2015 at the ARC Center of Excellence for Language Dynamics: How the Language You Speak Guides the Way You Hear. credit:A Center of Excellence in Language Dynamics

Despite such accolades, Cutler kept a cool head and continued to explore her work. She loves competitive intellectual exchange and is also a very talented teacher, encouraging listeners to participate in questions, walking through assumptions and evidence, and coming to persuasive conclusions. She supports the twin goals of research excellence and social equity in Australia and is proud to partner with the University of Western Sydney and its flagship research institute, the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behavior and Development. and her reputation was amplified by her.

As of 2021 at the latest, Cutler was teaching undergraduates at Western Sydney University on Speech Language Processing in an introductory course for speech pathology students. Her international status was never discreetly disclosed, but she gave them a rare summary on the science of language. led the field.

Ann Cutler was bequeathed to her husband Bill Sloman and sister Felicity Barr.

Created by a colleague of Anne Cutler at Western Sydney University.

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Anne Cutler’s enthusiastic scientific life

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