Research Topics

Our team is curious about all aspects of spoken language development. How does the human mind enable children to tune into their native language so easily? How does the infant brain convert the physical speech signal to abstract cognitive representations? How do infants exposed to more than one language (or language variety) make sense of their speech input? And why do children learn to speak like others in their community, regardless of how their parents speak? Our primary aim is not just to describe child language abilities, but to explore how children’s perceptual, cognitive, and social abilities enable the development of adult-like communication skills. Our work is inherently interdisciplinary, and we love to stretch the boundaries of our imagination through collaboration. Below is a list of some of our active lines of inquiry. The common thread connecting all of this work is a deep desire to understand how spoken communication develops, in both the mind and society.

Baby HPP study

Segmenting Words From Speech

How do listeners infer likely word boundaries in fluent speech? How do infants acquire the language-specific segmentation heuristics needed to solve the word segmentation problem?

Baby Study

Recognizing Talkers

What makes a talker particularly memorable? How does learning a language change the way we identify talkers? Why do children take so long to develop adult-like talker recognition abilities?

Baby Study

Developing Speech Representations

How do infants and toddlers know which dimensions of speech variation to attend to and which to ignore? What information influences how readily a word or speech sound is identified correctly by a child?

Toddler Study

Receiving Linguistically Diverse Input

How do children learn to process the speech signal and acquire language when they are routinely exposed to multiple languages, dialects, and/or accents?

Child Study

Processing Other-Accented Speech

How well do young children understand other-accented speech? Do they adapt to newly encountered accents in the same way as adults? What contexts facilitate adaptation by infants and toddlers?

Child Playing Game

Drawing Language-Based Inferences

When and why do children start making language-based social inferences about their interlocuters? Which factors impact the development of accent biases the most?

Child Smiling

Developing a Voice Identity

When and how do children develop their own unique voice? What factors influence how they speak, and/or who children choose to imitate?

Co-speech Gesture

Processing Co-Speech Gestures

What type of co-speech gestures do caregivers produce? Do children use these gestures to segment words from speech and resolve referential ambiguity?

Child Eyetracking Study

Learning New Words

What strategies do toddlers use to work out the meaning of new words and expand their vocabulary?

Child Eyetracking Study

Processing Familiar Voices

Do children process speech more efficiently when they hear it spoken by themselves or a close acquaintance (e.g., their own mother)? How do talker familiarity effects compare in children and adults?

Child Playing Game

The Perception-Production Link

What is the relationship between speech perception and speech production? Does this relationship change over the course of development? Can the study of own-voice perception shed light on these questions?

Toddler Eyetracking Study

Developing Grammatical Knowledge

When and how do children learn the grammatical words and morpho-syntax of their language? How do they use this information to more efficiently process and extract information from language?

Toddler Eyetracking Study

Conceptual Processing while Listening

What can children’s eye movements tell us about the concepts they automatically access as an utterance unfolds in real-time?

Toddler Listening to Story

Defining Children’s Speech Input

What is the nature of the speech input children receive, and how does this input influence their development?

Child wearing headphones

Processing Children’s Speech

Why do adults struggle to understand and identify child talkers? Do children process child speech better than adult speech, or do children struggle to understand and identify child talkers too?