We study how children recognize words and process sentences in real-time by tracking their eye movements while they listen to sentences and look at pictures on a computer monitor. These studies are very short (about 5 minutes long) and children simply sit in a chair and look at a computer monitor while they listen to words and sentences. For example, children might see a picture of a book and a ball on the monitor and hear either read the book or find the book. We are interested in how much more quickly children will look to the picture of the book when they hear an informative verb (read) rather than an uninformative verb (find).
We ask children to repeat real words and nonwords (made-up words such as tweket) and we record their productions. These studies are also short – about 15 minutes total. From the recordings, we can judge whether children are producing sounds correctly and what errors they make. We can also do acoustic analyses, which provide additional information about how children learn sounds. For example, we have found that children with cochlear implants make a less robust contrast between the sound “s” and “sh” than children with normal hearing and that this is related to the poorer speech intelligibility of children with cochlear implants.
We use computer games to study children’s speech perception skills and other aspects of speech and language processing. For example, we might ask children to choose between pictures of familiar objects that differ by only one sound (peas vs. keys)..