Research

My research focuses on examining the neural bases of speech production as well as the role of native language phonology in influencing speech perception. My research is strongly interdisciplinary, spanning not only Linguistics, but also Speech and Hearing Science and Physiology. I draw from psycholinguistics, formal and laboratory phonology, articulatory phonetics, anatomy and physiology, neurophysiology, corpus linguistics and work with both healthy and disordered populations. My work has both theoretical and clinical applications.

Current Research

Due to my combined interests in the neural control of speech production and the influence of native language on speech perception, my primary research project is the development of a web-based platform to build a cross-linguistic corpus of dysarthric speech samples. Speech motor disorders such as dysarthria affect at least 46 million people, world-wide, at any time. The overwhelming majority of these people do not speak English as a first language. Yet, many of the assessment and intervention measures used by speech-language professionals are based on native American-English speaker data. Very little research exists examining the effects of native language on not only the manifestation of a motor speech disorders, but also on the perception of disordered speech by speech-language professionals and other healthy listeners. This is a very real health-care dilemma for clinicians who work with bilingual or non-English speaking populations. The creation of a cross-linguistic corpus of dysarthric speech samples will allow researchers the opportunity to assess the influence of native language on not only the manifestation of a motor speech disorder but also of its perception by speech-language clinicians and normal healthy listeners. This project is strongly cross-disciplinary, drawing contributions from linguistics, speech and hearing sciences, and computational science. Therefore, I am collaborating with Drs. Julie Liss (Speech and Hearing Science), Visar Berisha (Speech and Hearing Science and Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering) from Arizona State University and Dr. Megan McAuliffe (Speech and Hearing Science) and Robert Fromont (web-based platform and app development) from the University of Canterbury at Christchurch.

Previous Research

My interests in the influence of native language on speech perception stem from my dissertation, which explored how harmonic classes and non-adjacent dependencies (e.g. vowel patterns) may be represented within the lexicons of Mongolian speakers. This work, conducted in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is the first psycholinguistic investigation of Mongolian.For more information about my Khalkha Mongolian Corpus, please click on the link in the drop down menu above.

My interest in the neural bases of speech production is strongly influenced by my experiences during a two-year post-doctoral position in the Department of Physiology at the University of Arizona. Under the direction of Dr. Fiona Bailey, my research focused on examining tongue structure and function in speech articulation through the use of electromyography (EMG), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) of tongue structure. This work sought to gain insight into the neural control of lingual musculature during speech and respiration.

These research experiences have provided me with a unique and wide skill set and experience in diverse experimental methodologies: statistical analysis and design, basic computer programming for corpus statistics and stimuli creation, experiment programming and design, field research techniques, acoustic analysis, both single motor unit and whole muscle EMG, ultrasound, magnetic resonance and diffusion tensor imaging.