My overarching research interest is to understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying language acquisition and language use. As language pervades all areas of our lives, and approximately two children out of each class starting school exhibit language impairments, I think it is crucial to arrive at more advanced understanding of how language development proceeds and, importantly, how it may be enhanced. I am further interested in the ways language and other cognitive processes interact and shape each other.
The study I conducted for my Master’s thesis compared two groups of bilingual infants classified as close or distant language bilinguals to a group of monolinguals in terms of their looking behaviour to a talking face. Both bilingual groups exhibited a mouth preference while monolingual infants explored the speaker’s eyes and mouth equally. Moreover, close language bilinguals showed a stronger preference for the mouth than their distant language bilingual peers, indicating that the relative linguistic proximity of a bilingual’s two languages modulates attention distribution in audiovisual speech processing.
My PhD research will investigate iconicity – a resemblance between linguistic form and meaning – in language acquisition. Specifically, I will investigate to which extent preverbal infants are sensitive to iconicity, and how this sensitivity is developed and reorganised while experience with the native language increases and cognitive processes become more mature. Iconicity might have the potential to promote language acquisition, especially at its initial stages, by providing an important link between sensori-motor experience and word forms.
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