Current Projects

Project | 01
Phonetic Variability in Infant Directed Speech

Although casual adult directed speech (ADS) contains a vast amount of phonetic variation, infant directed speech (IDS) has previously been thought to be more canonical (with less phonetic variation). Recent work has suggested that IDS and ADS are actually equally variable. Chong, Lin, and Sundara investigated the extent of phonetic variation in the Providence Corpus based on the position of coronal segments in the word, and found that in onset position, canonical variants were the most frequent variants; in medial position, the canonical variant was still most frequent though to a lesser extent; and in coda position, the canonical variant was not the most frequent variant for either /t/ or /d/, with large differences by segment. In my MA, I am extending this work to address the question: what is the level of phonetic variation in bilabial and velar stops and postalveolar fricatives in IDS? I then plan to design and run an experimental study, using segments extracted from the corpus, to determine whether infants prefer the environmentally appropriate or canonical variant of a segment, in order to pinpoint when the preference for the appropriate/correct form of a segment begins to arise over the course of an infant’s development – getting at the ultimate question: to what extent is phonetic variation in the input beneficial for language development?

Project | 02
Word-Learning to Parse?

Children are known to harness their existing linguistic knowledge, as well as the surrounding linguistic context and structure, as they learn new words, structures, and functions of their language. At the same time, recent work on child language processing has suggested that it is an immature processing mechanism, rather than immature grammars, that are responsible for a variety of findings in syntax and semantics studies where children's responses differ from those of adults. Curiously, findings in sentence processing have shown that young children tend to ignore both linguistic and visual context in the processing of simple garden path sentences.

Here, I hope to probe whether the ability of children to utilize context to learn novel words can influence their processing of temporarily ambiguous sentences.

Project | 03
Visual Language Discrimination in Bilingual Infants

One of the most difficult tasks bilingual infants must tackle on their path to language acquisition is figuring out a reliable system to discriminate between (or tell apart) their languages. This is a vital process, as failure to do so could lead to a failure to learn the phonological or syntactic systems of each language, which may differ significantly.

In collaboration with Prof. Megha Sundara, I seek to extend previous work on the visual discrimination of language by investigating the role of prosodic characteristics, such as timing of the language, in visual discrimination by bilingual infants.

To hear more about these projects, contact me!