Is speech a special sound for humans? The acquisition of spoken language offers a unique opportunity to study both innate and acquired facets of the human mind. What is it about language (and humans) that makes its acquisition a uniquely human accomplishment? Do we have dedicated mechanisms and neural substrates for acquiring spoken language? My research addresses these broad questions by exploring the linguistic and cognitive abilities of adults and young infants, including newborns. Current projects examine topics such as what makes speech a special sound for humans, how infants and adults use their knowledge of language and the world around them to learn the meanings of novel words, and what infants understand about the function of speech. Through these types of studies, I hope to understand the biases that constrain human language acquisition, and the learning strategies that infants adopt to refine and elaborate nascent cognitive domains.
Please visit the NYU infant cognition and communication laboratory (NICCL) for more information.