Ph.D. & Post-doc Projects
Segments and rules: a comparative study into the computational mechanisms underlying language acquisition
PhD students: Andreea Geambasu (LUCL), Michelle Spierings (IBL), Raquel Garrido Alhama (UvA ILLC)
Supervisors: Claartje Levelt (LUCL), Carel ten Cate (IBL), Jelle Zuidema (UvA ILLC)
This joint, NWO-funded project brings together researchers from the Leiden University Center for Linguistics (LUCL), the Institute for Biology Leiden (IBL) and the Institute for Logic Language and Computation (ILLC) of the University of Amsterdam. Together we focus on the properties of statistical- and rule-learning mechanisms in relation to the acquisition and evolution of language. We investigate to what extent these learning mechanisms are unique to humans, or to human language, by comparing the acquisition of vocal structure in two vocal-learning species: humans (infants) and songbirds (zebra finches).
Second language acquisition of prosody
PhD student: Amanda post da Silveira
Supervisors: Vincent van Heuven, Niels O. Schiller, Johanneke Caspers and Claartje Levelt
At the LUCL I am investigating second language acquisition of prosody. My research is funded by the program Monesia-Erasmus Mundus. I am currently performing behavioral tests to investigate the mechanism of L2 prosody processing assuming theword as a central unit in the structuring of L2 multi-dimensional linguistic knowledge.
Neural mechanisms and brain structures underlying individual differences in acquisition of vacabulary and grammar of an artificial language. A neurolinguistic study of language aptitude.
PhD student: Olga Kepinska
Supervisors: Johanneke Caspers and Niels O. Schiller
In my research I investigate language aptitude, a specific talent for learning foreign languages that has been extensively studied within the field of second language acquisition. In my project I approach it from a neurolinguistic perspective, looking into how, in terms of neural correlates, highly skilled learners differ from average ones on analytical and memory component of language aptitude.
The time course of orthographic and phonological facilitation in Chinese speech production (China Scholarship Council).
PhD student: Man Wang
Supervisors: Yiya Chen and Niels O. Schiller
My current research project is “Orthographic and phonological facilitation in Mandarin Chinese word production”, granted by NWO and CSC.
Conceptual accessibility effects on sentence production in Tarifiyt Berber.
PhD student: Eleanor Dutton
Supervisor: Niels O. Schiller
Previous research has demonstrated for a variety of languages how the relative conceptual accessibility of referents affects sentence planning and production. For example, when describing a situation where the patient argument is more easily accessible than the agent, speakers are more likely to use grammatical structures which give prominence to the patient - such as passives in English or object-initial actives in Spanish.
Tapping into semantic recovery: an event-related potential study on the processing of gapping
PhD student: Bobby Ruijgrok
Supervisor: Crit Cremers, Niels O. Schiller and Lisa Cheng
This project aims to investigate the underlying (neurocognitive) linguistic processes of ellipsis resolution, particularly gapping. The neuroscientific technique "event-related brain potentials" (ERPs) is applied to determine the time-course of ellipsis resolution. Ellipsis is an omnipresent phenomenon in the world's languages and an adequate tool to examine non-lexical processing of meaning.
To interpret (1) a process of semantic recovery is required while processing the right conjunct.
A psycholinguistic model for phonological development
In my research I investigate the acquisition of onset cluster words like the word trein (train) by two-year-old Dutch children. In this I pay attention to both production and perception of onset clusters. So far I have found that in production children leave acoustic traces in their reduced cluster words.
The early vocal development of songbirds and human infants
Parallels have been found between vocal learning in songbirds and human infants. Both humans and songbirds acquire language/birdsong from a tutor during a sensitive phase early in life.
Grammar induction: the influence of sample characteristics of the stimuli
How do children acquire the highly complex grammatical rules of their language? Linguistic theories (Chomsky, 1980) claim that children master natural grammar by means of an inborn language device.
Representation and processing of pitch in tonal languages
I work within the ERC project The representation and processing of pitch in tonal languages. My research focuses on how native speakers of Beijing Mandarin store lexical tone in the brain and access it during speech.
MODOMA: A Computer-Simulated Laboratory-Approach towards Language Acquisition
The goal of the MODOMA-project is to create a computer model of language acquisition. The resulting computer program sets out to construct linguistic knowledge (e.g. lexical and/or grammatical information) when presented with utterances such as sentences.
Grapheme-to-phoneme conversion in first and second language reading aloud
I combine the fields of Psychology with Linguistics and the research methods that give us the opportunity to understand what happens in the brain (e.g. electroencephalography: EEG).
Integrating biofeedback games in speech therapy for children who stutter
The goal of this project is to investigate new possibilities of employing interactive technologies in the delivery of treatment for patients with Motor Speech Disorders (MSD).
Linguistics aspects of speech and hearing of children who are wearing a cochlear implant (CI)
My research is about linguistics aspects of speech and hearing of children who are wearing a cochlear implant (CI).
Processing of prosody
PhD student: Jurriaan Witteman
Supervisors: Vincent van Heuven and Niels O. Schiller
How we say something can be as important as what we say. Using these melodic and rhythmic aspects of speech (also known as 'prosody') we can communicate our emotions (whether we are happy or angry) but also the linguistic structure of an utterance (e.g. whether what we say is meant as a question or a statement).
Prosody in whispered speech: retrieving alternative cues to pitch
Postdoc: Willemijn Heeren
The goal of this study is to systematically investigate how intonation (speech melody) is conveyed in whispered speech. A speaker who whispers fails to produce the most important cue to intonation perception, i.e. the fundamental frequency. Assuming that the speaker attempts to accommodate the listener during communication, it is likely that the whispering speaker will compensate for the loss of that cue by exploiting (and exaggerating) alternative acoustic cues to pitch.
Understanding of the strategies used by the human language parser in the completion of a dependency in real-time language processing
Postdoc: Leticia Pablos Robles
My current research focuses on the understanding of the strategies used by the human language parser in the completion of a dependency in real-time language processing. In particular I am currently examining the comprehension of Negative Polarity Item (NPI) and pronoun-antecedent dependencies in Dutch. To that effect, we have recently conducted two ERP experiments.