Talk by A/P Leher Singh on “Effects of Non-phonemic Variation on Early Word Recognition: A comparison of monolingual and bilingual infants”

Dr. Leher Singh

Dr. Leher Singh


There will be a departmental talk on 7 Sept (4pm) by A/P Leher Singh. More details are provided below.

Date/Time: 7 Sept 2010 (Tuesday), 4pm

Venue: AS7/01-17 (Seminar Room B)

Title: Effects of Non-phonemic Variation on Early Word Recognition: A comparison of monolingual and bilingual infants


Every time we hear a word, it differs from previous encounters with that word. Based on factors such as talker identity and vocal emotion, the physical form of a word changes in ways that do not change the lexical identity of that word. This kind of non-phonemic variability is rampant yet greatly complicates the process of word recognition for infants as they construct their first lexicon. Specifically, they have to learn to disregard this kind of non-phonemic variation in the search for meaning while attending to other changes that do determine meaning. This is commonly termed the ‘variability problem’. The variability problem has to be resolved on a language-specific basis as languages of the world differ in how they exploit sound to communicate meaning (e.g. tonal languages associate certain pitch changes with changes in word meaning whereas non-tonal languages do not). In a study designed to explore how bilingual versus monolingual infants overcome effects of non-phonemic variation, it appears that these two groups demonstrate distinct developmental trajectories for tonal and non-tonal languages. However, both groups of infants can disregard non-phonemic variation in a word recognition task by the end of their first year.

About the speaker:

Dr. Leher Singh joined our department in July 2010. Prior to moving to Singapore, she worked at Boston University where her research program focused on early language development. Her research interests are in the area of infant word recognition and in the role of emotion in facilitating memories for words in infants. She is also interested in infant predictors of later language development. Although most of her research is focused on typically developing populations, she has researched emotion and prosody perception in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

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