Cross-accent word identification
Due to increases in multilingual communities and global media access, infants in Australia are exposed to more accented English than in previous generations.
We know from previous research at our lab that at first, infants are not able to understand words that they know in Australian English when they are pronounced with an accent.
Therefore, across several different experiments we are working to understand why children are unable to recognise accented words early on, and how they eventually come to be able to understand accented speech like adults.
For these studies we are currently recruiting 14.5- to 17.5-month-old monolingual infants who do not receive regular exposure (no more than 4 hours/week) to languages or accents other than Australian English.
To find out more or sign up for our cross-accent studies, please contact the BabyLab.
Implicit word learning by bilinguals
As parents have probably noticed, toddlers seem to be able to pick up words that they were never actually taught.
Recent work from our lab shows that infants may learn at least some of these words by subconsciously taking note of the possible meanings of an unknown word when they hear the word spoken, and then narrowing down the list of possible meanings more and more as they encounter the word more times.
This may be more difficult for bilingual children to do, however, because they have learned that two words can stand for the same thing, which might make it more difficult for them to narrow down their list of possible meanings for a word.
We are currently testing whether bilingual infants can learn words in this way.
We are currently looking for bilingual 14.5-15.5 month-old babies with at least one of the infant's parents speaking a language other than Australian English as their native language, and at least 30 hours per week of exposure to that language.
To get more information or sign your child for participation in this study please contact the BabyLab.
Infants' learning of words containing difficult vowels
Australian English is known for its many different vowel sounds, but recent research from our lab suggests that at least one Australian vowel (the "ee" sound in FLEECE), may be difficult for infants to perceive, making it challenging for them to learn new words that contain that vowel.
To understand what makes this difficult for infants, whether they eventually overcome this difficulty, and how their language background might influence their ability, we are testing monolingual and bilingual infants' ability to learn the words containing the "ee" vowel in Australian English, and comparing
it with their ability to learn words containing different vowels, or vowels in accents other than Australian English.
For these studies we are looking for 14.5- to 16-month-old monolingual babies that are not exposed to language or accents other than Australian English on a regular basis (no more than 12 hours/week).
We are also looking for 16.5- to 18-month-old bilingual babies who have at least one parent who speaks a language other than Australian English as their native language, and who have regular exposure to the parent's other language (36+ hours/week).
To find out more or sign up for any of these studies please contact the BabyLab.
Infants' preferences for faces and toys
While exceptions undoubtedly exist, boys classically tend to play with toys such as cars and machines, while girls' toys, such as dolls, tend to have a more social focus.
This research compares children's preference for looking at social versus mechanical toys between boys and girls and across infants and children of different ages.
This will help us determine whether boys and girls are born with these preferences, or whether they develop in children over time, suggesting they may be more rooted in social pressures.
We are currently looking for 14.5- to 16.5 month-old infants to participate in this study.
Please contact the BabyLab if you would like to sign your child up or if you would like more information on this study.
Infants' processing of changes in novel words
In most settings, when a large change is made, it is more likely to be noticed than a smaller change.
However, we do not know at what age infants start to recognise these types of distinctions in language processing.
As such, this research looks at how infants process small changes in words compared to larger changes in words.
We are currently recruiting 11- to 13-month-old babies who are exposed to more than 12 hours per week of a language/accent other than Australian English.
If you would like to sign up for this study, or find out more please get in touch with the BabyLab.
The Seeds of Literacy
This is a five year longitudinal study that follows language development from 5 months to 5 years of age in infants who are and who are not at risk for developing dyslexia.
Infants complete 17 visits to the BabyLab at which their speech perception, word learning, and later phonological awareness and reading abilities are assessed using a variety of behavioural and electrophysiological tasks.
In addition, parent-infant interactions are recorded to assess the quality of infants' early language exposure.
Our goal is to understand how early experiences affect later literacy in order to inform intervention and support for children with reading difficulties.
The Seeds of Language Development
This is a three-year longitudinal study that investigates the development of language skills in hearing impaired and typically hearing infants.
We are currently inviting 7-month-old infants and their parents to take part of this study. Infants will visit the lab from the age of 7 months until the age of 3 years and take part in tasks assessing their ability to perceive and discriminate speech sounds, learn new words, and recognise familiar
The aim of this project is to identify the aspects of language development that predict later language delay associated with hearing loss to ensure that infants most in need of additional intervention receive it at the earliest possible time.
Is learning two languages the same as learning one?
In their first years of life, infants face the challenging task of learning the words of their language.
A number of strategies and assumptions are developed in this process to facilitate the task of mapping novel labels to their referents.
The focus of the present project is to determine whether monolingual and bilingual infants are able to use the same language acquisition mechanisms, or do different mechanisms emerge as a product of their individual linguistic experience.
We invite monolingual and bilingual infants between the ages of 18 and 30 months to take part in fun interactive tasks where they will learn new words for new objects.
The nature of pitch perception in infancy and adulthood
Human perception of language and music interacts on many levels. If a person speaks a tone language like Thai, lexical and musical pitches are processed distinctly (linguistic vs. acoustic).
However, they are processed in a similar, acoustic fashion when one has no tone language experience (i.e., English speakers).
Tone language adult listeners perceive lexical pitch in a linguistic/categorical fashion and outperform non-tone language peers in musical pitch perception.
Infants are able to discriminate pitch at birth. How non-tone language learning infants develop their pitch perception patterns to language and music is particularly interesting to understand the diverse perceptual patterns in adulthood.
Additionally, bilingualism has been shown to affect infant cognitive processing. Bilingual infants illustrate better inhibition control than monolinguals since 8 months after birth.
This project aims at studying 1) how infants perceive and process language and music pitch and 2) whether bilingualism may influence pitch perception across domains.