Research Projects

Infant Neural Processing of Native, Non-Native, and Whistled Language

Using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), I explored how the infant brain at different stages of development (birth, 4-months, 10-months) responds to various language signals. Specifically, I compared brain activation evoked when listening to the infants’ native language versus an unfamiliar non-native language, as well as to an unfamiliar non-native whistled surrogate language. The whistled surrogate language used in this set of studies is Silbo Gomero, a surrogate language of Spanish used in parts of the Canary Islands. To hear an example, visit: http://infantstudies.psych.ubc.ca/silbo(In collaboration with Drs. Janet Werker, Judit Gervain, and Manuel Carreiras)

Languages and Faces: Infants’ Expectations about the Speakers of Native and Non-Native Languages

In this work I was interested in whether young infants expect familiar native language to be associated with individuals who are more like them (ie, share their ethnicity, culture, etc.), and non-native language to be associated with individuals who are more unfamiliar (ie, a dissimilar ethnicity, culture). I investigated this question in infants at both 6 and 11 months of age, using eye-tracking methodology. (In collaboration with Drs. Janet Werker and Andrew Baron)

Conventionality of Word-Form: Who to Learn From?

Previous research has shown that children prefer to learn words from individuals who were previously accurate versus from individuals who were previously inaccurate. Here I asked whether infants have similar intuitions about learning words from individuals who have previously used words that conform to their native language’s word-form conventions (ie, what a word is allowed to sound like) versus from individuals who have previously used words that do not conform to their native language’s word-form conventions (for example, words containing non-native language sounds).  These studies involved 2-year-old children, and use eye-tracking methodology. (In collaboration with Dr. Janet Werker)

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