(1980-01-11) January 11, 1980 (age 37)
Cognitive science, Linguistics, Comics Studies
University of Chicago
Ray Jackendoff, Gina Kuperberg, Phillip Holcomb
Other academic advisors
Marta Kutas, Jeff Elman
Visual language theory
Contributions to comics theory
Neil Cohn (/koʊn/; born 1980) is an American cognitive scientist and comic author. His research offers the first serious scientific study of the cognition of understanding comics, and uses an interdisciplinary approach combining aspects of theoretical and corpus linguistics with cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Cohn’s work argues that common cognitive capacities underlie the processing of various expressive domains, especially verbal and signed languages and what he calls “visual language”—the structure and cognition of drawings and visual narratives, particularly those found in comics. His theories have examined the linguistic status of emoji.
2 Visual language theory
3 Comic authorship
4.1 Selected works
5 External links
Cohn began developing his theories as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley where he graduated in 2002. He then spent several years as an independent scholar before studying under linguist Ray Jackendoff and psychologists Gina Kuperberg and Phillip Holcomb at Tufts University where he received his PhD in psychology in 2012. He then did a postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Diego working with Marta Kutas and Jeff Elman. In 2016, he joined the faculty of the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication at Tilburg University. He is the son of Leigh Cohn and Lindsey Hall.
Visual language theory
Cohn’s work challenges many of the existing conceptions of both language and drawing. He argues that language involves an interaction between an expressive modality, meaning, and a grammar. Just as sign languages differ from gestures in that they use a vocabulary and grammar, “visual languages” differ from individual drawings because they have a vocabulary of patterned graphic representations and a grammar constraining the coherence of sequential images. Full visual languages primarily appear alongside written languages in comics of the world, though they also appear outside of comics, such as in sand drawings used by Australian Aboriginal