Long before they start talking, infants have acquired a surprising degree of knowledge about the sounds, words, and grammar of their language. Within the first year of life, infants start to hear sounds the way adult speakers of their language do, and have begun to recognize words in the speech around them.
In our lab at the University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology, we seek to understand the initial capacities that infants bring to the task of language acquisition, and how infants' knowledge is altered by their experience with the language(s) around them. Some of our primary questions include:
- How do very young infants process speech? What sounds do they treat differently and what sounds do they treat as the same?
- How does this change with exposure to the native language(s)?
- When do infants start to learn about what words sound like and what they mean? How do these two processes interact?
- How do toddlers interpret new or unusual pronunciations of words? Is this different from how adults treat new pronunciations?
How do children interpret words in different situations and when spoken by different people?
- What perceptual and learning mechanisms help young learners acquire language so rapidly?
- Do children understand that people with different language backgrounds may use language differently?
We are always looking for new participants (aged 0 - 8) and would love to have your family participate. Please contact us for more information!