Cross linguistic studies on spoken language processing

August 9, 2013

The long-term objective of Keith Johnson's NIH-funded research project is to understand human spoken language processing (particularly speech perception and auditory word recognition) in linguistic context. Speech signals are unique in human experience because they are highly familiar, and have great practical significance in daily life. Therefore, it is not too surprising to find that people develop optimized processing strategies tuned specifically for speech. In this work we study how this tuning process may be sensitive to linguistic structure. Cross-linguistic spoken language research is important because without it we are in danger of concluding that the phenomena found in one language (or even dialect) are somehow normative for speakers of other languages. Such a narrow understanding of 'normal' spoken language processing is likely to have a negative impact on clinical speech and hearing practice in a pluralistic society.