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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?