Dr Christine Kitamura

Christine KitamuraAdjunct Researcher

Research Program: Speech and Language

Biography

I obtained my PhD from the University of New South Wales in 1999, and my expertise is in the area of language acquisition and infant-directed speech. My long-held pursuit has been to understand how exposure to the exaggerated emotional prosody embodied in infant-directed speech functions to (i) maintain infant attention, (ii) facilitate early mother-infant communication, and (iii) bootstrap language acquisition.

The exploration of the function of infant-directed input has led me to probe the interface of infant-directed speech and language acquisition, including two common conditions that hinder it: infant hearing impairment and at-risk status of dyslexia. How such conditions undermine mother-infant interaction and speech acquisition not only inform models of speech perception and dyadic interaction, but also have implications for the design of infant hearing prostheses, intervention programs for language-impaired children, and the modelling of human interactive behaviour more generally.

Research Interests

My current research interests focus on:

  1. Auditory-visual speech processing using naturally expressive continuous speech (infant directed speech) to chart the development of infants' sensitivity to visual prosodic and articulatory cues conveyed by motion in different regions of the face and head.
  2. The use of accent variation to probe how normal children, and those with language difficulties (dyslexia and autism) develop word constancy across different accents (pronunciations) of the same word. The development of a precursory pattern is seen in young infants who, by 9 months, show undifferentiated responses to their own and another accent. This signals the emergence of language constancy, or the recognition that different accents belong to a common language.
  3. Infant-directed speech, a unique speech style used the world over, and most people, whether they are parents or not, instinctively, and often unknowingly, speak like this to infants. IDS is a sophisticated human speech register with unique features which include higher pitch, enhanced positive emotion, more distinctive pitch contours, and hyperarticulated vowels. Attention to speech is critical to learning language, and infants actively seek out the exaggerated speech components found in infant-directed speech.

Qualifications and Honours

  • PhD, University of New South Wales, 1999
  • BA (Hons), Psychology, University of New South Wales

Publications

For a full listing of my publications, please see my personal publications page.(opens in a new window)