Research

My research focuses on how human listeners learn and understand spoken language. Specifically, I am interested in how listeners learn the sounds and words of their languages, and how they store and access them when needed for language use.

 

With respect to the processes involved in spoken language comprehension, an important question is how listeners handle the great amount of variation in the speech signal. The sources of variation are multifaceted and reach from contextual sources, such as phonological variation, to speaker-related sources such as gender or dialect. How does the speech system deal with this variation and when does it help or hinder comprehension are some of the main questions I address in this line of research. Lately, I have taken a particular interest in variation in the speech signal that is due to foreign accents. This interest includes research on how expectations and emotions influence the comprehension of spoken language.

 

My research on phonological and lexical development typically focuses on adult second language (L2) learners. Recognizing sounds and words in one’s native language (L1) is usually effortless, but the same task can be much more demanding when listening to a second language. Main issues in my L2 research concern the involvement of the L1 and L2 lexica and the influence of the phonological structure of the learners’ L1. I am both interested in short-term adaptation and long-term learning of sounds and words. For short-term adaptation, I am particularly interested in the boundaries and stability of adaptation. For long-term learning, I am interested in how newly learned rules for variation or newly learned words are transferred to long-term memory.

 

Besides my interest in the phonological and lexical levels, I am also interested in processing of spoken language on the sentence level. Recent projects include L1 and L2 listeners’ comprehension of figurative language and the perception of uptalk, i.e., rising intonation contours in statements.

 

I am a psycholinguist who combines insights from linguistics, cognitive psychology, speech science, and neuroscience. In addition, I evaluate these insights for their significance for second language teaching.