As a pet owner, I often find myself wondering if my dogs are actually “saying” what I have interpreted from their barks, whines, and sighs. When they bark at the door to go outside or at the window when a car passes by, are they using language that I just can’t understand? While dogs definitely […]
On the Tip of Their Tongue: Babies Use Tongue Movement to Learn Language
Have you ever wondered how infants go from communicating via crying, to nonsensical noises, to single syllables, and eventually to words? Well, it turns out infants’ language learning is linked to being able to move their tongue when hearing the sounds: tongue movement isn’t just necessary for *making* speech sounds– it also helps babies *understand* […]
Can Babies Learn Language Before They are Born?
Have you ever heard of parents putting headphones on their bellies during pregnancy so their baby can listen to music before they’re born? That’s because babies usually start being able to hear during the third trimester. We also know that babies start to develop language at a very young age, and as more research is […]
Tuning in and out: language learning and processing with a noisy background
It feels like there are always so many things happening at once. This is especially true when it comes to noise. Even when sitting at your desk, there may be an air conditioner blowing, water dripping in a bathroom nearby, your colleague talking to you, and a background conversation. So, how exactly does our brain […]
Before babies can learn what a word means, they have to know what it sounds like.
What is wordform recognition? Before they can even consider learning what words mean, infants need to be able to recognize the consistent way that words sound, even though the same word can sound super different each time it’s said! Take a listen to this audio recording of all the times a baby heard other people […]
Phonology: the study of speech sounds in the mind
What is Phonology? Did you know that you had a set of unconscious rules about how you can arrange sounds in your language? Phonology is a field of study in linguistics that examines the patterns of sounds within a language and across different languages. It aims to study how we, as humans, mentally organize the […]
Abstract vs. Imageable words: which ones are easier to learn?
Some words are easier to form an image of than others. Think of the word moon: perhaps you think of a pale yellow crescent shape, or an illuminating white circle in front of a smoky blue backdrop. Regardless, the word has a high degree of imageability. Now think of the word truth: what exactly does […]
Zoom into language development: How does an online study with infants work?
As everything closed during the COVID-19 lockdowns, of course, our lab was no exception. With no safe way of further testing children and parents in our lab facilities, we had to bring the lab to our participants. With online yoga classes and family gatherings, we thought to ourselves: shouldn’t that work for our experiments as […]
How do we process language as we see or hear it? You can predict the future (a little bit)!
Language Processing Models: Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Bottom-up pathways rely on data as it comes in. These models process information by building up a larger meaning step-by-step from basic units, kind of like climbing up a staircase. For example, if you used a bottom-up method while reading, your eyes would transmit each individual letter to your […]
Illusions from combining senses: the McGurk Effect!
Are you familiar with the “Yanny or Laurel” debate? If so, which name did you hear? Did what you hear ever change if you were reading one of the names when listening to the sound? If you answered “yes” to the questions above, then you might’ve experienced something called the McGurk Effect! Our experience of […]