Our research investigates how human listeners comprehend and learn language, with a special focus on spoken language. To this end, we combine insights from psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, speech science, and neuroscience. In addition, we evaluate these insights for their significance for second language teaching.
With respect to the processes involved in spoken language comprehension, an important question is how listeners handle the great amount of variation in the speech signal. The sources of variation are multifaceted and reach from contextual sources, such as phonological variation, to speaker-related sources such as gender, age, or foreign accent. How does the speech system deal with this variation, and when does it help or hinder comprehension, are some of the main questions we address in this line of research. Our interest includes research on how expectations and emotions influence the comprehension of spoken language.
Our research on language learning, typically focuses on adult second language (L2) learners. Recognizing words and understanding sentences in one’s native language (L1) is usually effortless, but the same task can be much more demanding when listening to a second language. Main issues in our L2 research concern the involvement of the L1 and L2 lexica and the influence of the learners’ L1 on L2 acquisition and processing. Recent projects include L1 and L2 listeners’ comprehension of figurative language and the perception of uptalk, i.e., rising intonation contours in statements.