Professor Denis Burnham

PositionDenis Burnham

Research Professor of Speech and Language

Research Program: Speech and Language


During PhD and a junior faculty position at Monash (1975-1981) and then later at UNSW (1981-1999), I researched infant perceptual development. I rode the exciting new wave of infant visual perception research in the 1970s and then was one of the first Australian punks in the 1980s to jump onto the equally, if not more, exciting newer wave of infant speech perception.

From the mid-80s and throughout the 90s I embraced cross-disciplinary research, working with experimental phoneticians and speech scientists, and in the late 80s I added the use non-English languages (Thai and then many others) as a tool in order to probe speech perception development not only over ontogeny, but also as a product of the mini-laboratories (called  languages) so conveniently set up to allow natural manipulation of perceptual input.

After my appointment as inaugural Director of MARCS at UWS in 1999, my research focus on experiential and inherited influences in speech and language development continued to develop in – infant speech perception; auditory-visual (AV) speech perception; special speech registers, including ,infant-, pet-, foreigner-, computer-, and lover-directed speech; captions for the hearing impaired; tone languages – lexical tone perception, tone perception with cochlear implants, and speech-music interactions; human-machine interaction; speech corpus studies; and the role of infants' perceptual experience and expertise, in literacy development.

So too have my collaborations developed – with phoneticians, linguists, engineers, clinicians, computer scientists, music cognition researchers, creative artists, and neuroscientists, with the result of many emergent issues, paradigms, results, and friendships.

Research Interests

  • Speech Perception and Literacy (Related Project: The Seeds of Literacy)
  • Special Speech Registers (Related Project: The Seeds of Literacy)
  • Auditory Visual Speech Perception (Related Project: Three-Dimensional Speech Perception)
  • Lexical Tone Perception (Related Project: Three-Dimensional Speech Perception)
  • Speech Corpus Studies (Related Project: The Big ASC (Australian Speech Corpus)
  • Human Machine Interaction (Related Project: From Talking Heads to Thinking Heads)

Qualifications and Honours

  • Shell Prize in Arts, University of New England (UNE), 1973
  • BA (Hons1, Psychology), University Medal, APS Prize in Psychology, UNE, 1974
  • PhD (The perception of moving objects by infants and the development of the object concept, Supervisor: Professor R. H. Day, Monash University (1980)
  • Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, UNSW, 1981-1999


  • Inaugural Director, MARCS Auditory Laboratories (1999); MARCS Institute (2012)
  • Research Program Leader, Speech and Language Program
  • President, Australian Speech Science & Technology Association (ASSTA, 2002 - )
  • Co-founder, Auditory-Visual Speech Perception Association (AVISA, 1997)
  • Member, International Advisory Council (IAC) of International Speech Communication Association (ISCA)

Full Publications

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

Contact Denis
Phone+61 2 9772 6681
LocationWestern Sydney Universtity Bankstown campus (Bullecourt Ave, Milperra)
Room 3.G.20