I am interested in how the speech that infants and young children hear affects early language acquisition. My current research focuses on complementary questions of the nature of such speech, particularly with regard to properties that may cue aspects of language structure, and the nature of early perceptual capacities for extracting and representing the structural information that is cued.
Beginning academic life as a linguist with interests in language processing and computation, I switched over in graduate school to become a (developmental) psychologist. In my youth, claims about innate bases and properties of language predominated. I am not altogether unsympathetic with that viewpoint, but it has always seemed to me that the most powerful argument for language preprogramming must be made by considering the strongest possible empirically supportable assumptions about richness of language input and the power of learners' perceptual, representational, and analytic capacities, and then determining specific aspects of language where these fall short. I have devoted my career to exploring the nature of language input (the auditory and, more recently, visual experiences of infants) and the nature of infants' language processing abilities. I have focused particularly on infants' spoken word recognition a set of complex perceptual and computational skills fundamental for language comprehension and acquisition, involving arguably the most central unit of language structure.
On The Web:
Metcalf Infant Research Lab
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