Speaker: Prof Denis Burnham 

Title: Auditory-Visual Speech Perception and Language Acquisition: Developmental and Cross-Language Influences

Date: Wednesday 24 February, 2-3 pm 

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room) 


Infants’ universal perception of the speech sounds of the world’s languages becomes tuned to their specific language environment over four functionally adaptive stages – phonetic, phonemic, semantic, and orthographic, in which re-organisation and new modes of representing speech are cumulatively added. Using this framework, some studies of auditory speech perception development will be presented ahead of research on auditory-visual speech perception and language development will both over age, and across languages. The talk will conclude by considering critical impetuses for quantal developments in auditory-visual speech perception – the nature and role of infant-directed speech to the infant in different contexts and language environments, the nature of the surrounding spoken and the written language environment, and what might happen in children at risk for dyslexia. 

About the Speaker:

 During PhD in Psychology and a junior faculty position at Monash (1975-1981), then later in Psychology at the University of NSW (1981-1999) Denis researched infant perceptual development, and from the mid-80s and throughout the 90s he also embraced cross-disciplinary research of speech perception as a precursor to later language development, working with developmental psychologists, linguists, experimental phoneticians, engineers and speech scientists. Following his appointment as inaugural Director of MARCS at the University of Western Sydney in 1999 (until 2014), his research focus on experiential and inherited influences in speech and language development continued to develop in – infant speech perception; infant speech input – infant-directed speech and other special speech registers, infant-, pet-, foreigner-, computer-, and lover-directed speech; cross-language studies with some emphasis on tone and pitch-accented languages, and lexical tone perception and production, and relations with other language and music skills; auditory-visual speech perception; hearing impairment – captions for the hearing impaired, and speech perception development in and speech input to infants with hearing aids and cochlear implants; speech-music interactions; human-machine interaction; speech corpus studies; and the role of infants’ early perceptual experience and expertise in literacy development. 

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