SEcond Language Acquisition Lab

Principal Investigator: Dr. Susanne Carroll

One of the primary goals of our research is to learn more about how adult second language learners learn functional categories at the earliest stages of acquisition, i.e. on first exposure.  Much of the research done with real learners (as opposed to artificial language learning studies) is descriptive. Instead, we are controlling the stimuli and population of interest in such a way that we can make stronger claims about cause and effect in learning.

We investigate how learners respond to stimuli from modified versions of languages such as Korean and Persian (Farsi). Although the content is simplified, the stimuli we use in our studies retain natural language qualities. While one of the central questions is whether adults treat these tasks as an artificial exercise, our methodologies allow us to determine the effects of frequency by controlling the amount of exposure each learner receives.

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Noun Semantics Presentation
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First Language Acquisition (Labs)

Our research focuses on describing and understanding the initial steps in infancy that begin the language acquisition process. We study infants from birth up to five years of age to explore children’s early language preferences and how these preferences change and evolve throughout their development. Our focus is primarily on how infants perceive speech sounds and learn about words. We also study adults on occasion to explore whether similar developmental patterns can be observed when learning a second language.

To address these questions we present infants with different types of language and non-language stimuli, usually accompanied by pictures, and record their looking, reaching, pointing, or heart rate. We examine not only what infants perceive but also how parents talk to their infants and how this affects development of an individual’s sound system. We hope to apply our knowledge of typical development to populations of infants at risk for a language delay, in order to provide better information for eventual intervention and remediation.

This work is all made possible through a devoted group of researchers, generous funding, and the continued support and participation of parents and infants.

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