Our Research

Babytalk words

Each language has a set of words that are used mostly with babies and young children, such as choo-choo, bunny and tummy. Why do we have such ‘baby-talk words’ when we already have 'normal' words such as train, rabbit and stomach? Do these words play any special role in language learning? If so, what and how? In the Baby-Talk Word Project, we try to answer these questions through a series of studies in which we measure how well babies and children identify or learn new words that sound like baby-talk words.

Pronouns and demonstratives

Pronouns like it, he or she and demonstratives like this and that are tricky to learn because their meaning changes with each new context. For instance, it in "Do you see it?" can refer to something that was mentioned in the conversation before or something that the speaker assumes you are paying attention to. In this project, we are investigating when and how young children come to understand such functions of these words.

The phonetics of infant-directed speech

Infants learn the sounds and words from the speech that is addressed to them. Often, such speech infant-directed speech is said to be different from typical adult-directed speech in pitch patterns, the quality of vowels, and the rate of speech etc. But does infant-directed speech really differ from adult-direted speech in predictable ways, and do those differences help infants acquire the language they are exposed to? In this project, we address these questions by analyzing the phonetic characteristics of recorded natural speech addressed to young children.