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Overview of Faculty Research Expertise

Neurolinguistics and Speech Science

Dr. Shari Baum

Research interests focus on two main areas: neurolinguistics and speech science. A primary goal of Dr. Baum’s research is to ascertain the neural substrates of various aspects of language processing, including word recognition, speech and prosodic production and perception, and sentence processing. To this end, Dr. Baum is utilizing ERP, TMS and fMRI paradigms, as well as conducting behavioural studies with brain-damaged patients. Research on aspects of normal speech motor control is also underway, including kinematic and acoustic studies of speech adaptation to perturbation.

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Latest publications

BAUM, S. (Bélanger, N., Mayberry, R., & Baum, S.) (2012). Reading difficulties in adult deaf readers of French: Phonological codes, not guilty! Scientific Studies of Reading, 16, 263-285.

-- (Zatorre, R. & Baum, S.) (2012). Musical melody and speech intonation: Singing a different tune? PLoS Biology, 10(7): e1001372. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001372.

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Speech Perception, Production and Learning

Dr. Meghan Clayards

Dr. Clayards' research interests are in speech perception, online auditory word recognition, acoustic phonetics and learning. She uses acoustic analysis of speech to look at patterns of variability in acoustic-phonetic cues and perception and training studies to see how that variability affects speech processing. Eye-tracking and the visual world paradigm are used to investigate how acoustic phonetic cues are integrated in real time during on-line word recognition. Current projects are also investigating the effects of variability on word learning in toddlers and adult second language learners.

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Latest publications

CLAYARDS, M. (Niebuhr, O., Clayards, M., Meunier, C., & Lancia, L.) (2011) On place assimilation within sibilant sequences – comparing French and English. Journal of Phonetics 39, 429-451

--(Bejjanki, V.R., Clayards, M., Knill, D.C., & Aslin, R.N.) (2011) Cue integration in categorical tasks: insights from audio-visual speech perception. PLOS one 6(5): e19812. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019812

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Psycholinguistics and Cognitive Neuroscience


Dr. Laura Gonnerman

My two main areas of interest are:
       1.) the structure of the lexical semantic system
       2.) the representation and processing of morphologically complex words in English and other languages
To explore these areas, I use a combination of research in normal adult processing, language loss in Alzheimer's disease and other disorders, connectionist modeling, and imaging.
  • Language and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

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Latest publications

GONNERMAN, L. (Gonnerman, L.M.) (2012). The roles of efficiency and complexity in the processing of verb particle constructions. Journal of Speech Sciences, 2, 3-31.

-- (Blais, M-J., & Gonnerman, L.M.,) (2012). The role of semantic transparency in the processing of verb particle constructions by French-English bilinguals. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R.P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1338-1343). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

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Speech Motor Control

Dr. Vincent Gracco

My research focuses on the neuroscience of human communication using multiple neuroimaging modalities and physiological techniques. Current research areas focus on the development and mechanisms of sensorimotor control for spoken language, sensorimotor dysfunctions associated with stuttering and other speech motor disorders, neuroplasticity and sensorimotor learning, bilingualism and the relationship between language and music. Dr. Gracco is the Director of the multidisciplinary Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music at McGill.

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Latest publications

GRACCO, V. (Klepousniotou E, Pike GB, Steinhauer K, Gracco VL) (2012). Not all ambiguous words are created equal: An EEG investigation of homonymy and polysemy. Brain &Language, 123(1): 1-7.

-- (Beal D, Gracco VL, Brettschneider J, Kroll RM, DeNil L) (2012). A voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis of regional grey and white matter volume abnormalities within the speech production network of children who stutter. Cortex, DOI information: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.08.013.

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Discourse Processing, Pragmatic Development, Communications in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Dr. Aparna Nadig

My research focuses on pragmatic development, social communication, and language and communication in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. I am especially interested in how we use multiple sources of information (visual, prosodic, from previous discourse, about our conversational partner) to arrive at a speaker’s intended meaning, and how we do this in real time, and what characteristics underlie this ability.

Current work in my lab examines:

  • early word learning processes in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and in typical development prosody and conversational interaction in pre-adolescent speakers with ASD
  • the efficacy of our newly-developed Transition Support Program for young adults with ASD (in collaboration with Prof. Tara Flanagan, McGill Educational and Counselling Psychology)
  • infants’ learning about objects from social cues versus repeated exposure (in collaboration with Prof. Kristine Onishi, McGill Psychology)

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Latest publications

NADIG, A. (Bourguignon, N., Nadig, A. & Valois, D.) (2012). The Biolinguistics of Autism: Emergent Perspectives. Biolinguistics, 6 (2), 124-165.

--(Bourguignon, N., Nadig, A. & Valois, D.) (2012). The Biolinguistics of Autism: Emergent Perspectives. Biolinguistics, 6 (2), 124-165.

Nadig, A. & Shaw, H. (2012). Expressive prosody in high-functioning autism: Increased pitch range and what it means to listeners. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42 (4), 499-511.

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Neuropragmatics and Emotions, Social Cognitive Neuroscience

Dr. Marc Pell

Research in the Pell Lab is motivated by the following goals: to understand how adults communicate nonverbal and nonliteral meanings in spoken language, especially those meanings which refer to a speaker's emotions, attitudes, or other social intentions while speaking; to establish how acquired diseases of the brain, such as stroke or Parkinson's disease, affect these communicative functions and related pragmatic skills; and to describe the neuro-cognitive substrates which appear to support these expressive and receptive language abilities.

We are approaching our goals through behavioural and acoustic studies of healthy adults and through neuropsychological evaluation of brain-damaged adults with suspected difficulties in emotional communicaton and pragmatic language processing. Currently, much of our research is focussed on the role of emotional prosody (i.e. voice tone) in speech communication, although related work on how adults process emotional facial expressions and certain nonliteral forms of language (e.g. sarcasm, metaphors) is also underway

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Latest publications

PELL, M.D. (Liu, P. & Pell, M.D.) (2012). Recognizing vocal emotions in Mandarin Chinese: A validated database of Chinese vocal emotional stimuli. Behavior Research Methods, 44, 1042-1051.

--(Schwartz, R. & Pell, M.D.) (2012). Emotional speech processing at the intersection of prosody and semantics. PLoS ONE, 7 (10): e47279.

--(Pell, M.D., Robin, J., & Paulmann, S.) (2012). How quickly do listeners recognize emotional prosody in their native versus a foreign language? Speech Prosody 6th International Conference Proceedings, Shanghai, China.

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Development of Speech Perception

Dr. Linda Polka

Research in the Polka lab focuses on the development of speech perception during infancy. The goal of this work is to understand the skills and biases that the infants bring to this task and how their speech processing changes with age and language experience to support language processing. We are currently engaged in research involving infants between 4 and 18 monhs of age on vowel perception and production, the effects of early bilingualism and the role of attention in speech processing.

  • Speech Perception Lab

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Latest publications

POLKA, L. (Nazzi,T., Goyet, L., Sundara, M. & Polka, L.) (2012). Différences linguistiques et dialectales dans la mise en place des procédures de segmentation de la parole. Enfance, 127-146

--(Polka, L. & Sundara, M,) (2012). Word segmentation in monolingual infants acquiring Canadian English and Canadian French: Native language, cross-language, and cross-dialect comparisons, Infancy, 17(2), 198-232.

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Phonological Development and Disorders

Dr. Susan Rvachew

Research interests are focused on phonological development and disorders with specific research topics including: the role of speech perception development in sound production learning; speech development in infancy; efficacy of interventions for phonological disorders; and computer applications in the treatment of phonological disorders. Current projects include a longitudinal investigation of deficits in phonological awareness skills in pre-schoolers with delayed phonological development, relationship between auditory attention and babbling skills in infants with early onset otitis media, and cross-linguistic differences in the acoustic characteristics of vowels produced by infants.

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Latest publications

RVACHEW, S. (Marquis, A., Royle, P., Gonnerman, L. & Rvachew, S.) (2012). La conjugaison du verbe en début de scolarisation. Travaux interdisciplinaires sur la parole et le langage, 28, 2-13.

-- (Rvachew, S. & Brosseau-Lapré, F.) (2012). An input-focused intervention for children with developmental phonological disorders. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 19, 31-35.

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Psycholinguistics and Neurocognition of Language

Dr. Karsten Steinhauer

Research interests lie primarily in the areas of psycholinguistics and cognitive neuroscience. Current projects focus on the neural organization and temporal online dynamics of processes underlying language perception, particularly using event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and other brain imaging techniques. This includes interactions among syntactic, semantic, morphological and (overt or covert) prosodic information in listeners and readers, as well as links between speech and music processing. In addition, Dr. Steinhauer's work addresses issues of bilingualism and second language acquisition in adults, investigating both natural languages and a highly controlled artificial language. A more recent research program investigates the brain mechanisms underlying formal as compared to conceptual semantics, combining ERP and fMRI techniques.

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Latest publications

STEINHAUER, K. (Drury, J.E. & Steinhauer, K.) (2012). On the early left-anterior negativity (ELAN) in syntax studies. Brain and Language, 120 (2), 135-162.

--(Morgan-Short, K., Steinhauer, K., Sanz, C., & Ullman, M.T.) (2012). Explicit and Implicit Second Language Training Differentially Affect the Achievement of Native-like Brain Activation Patterns. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24 (4), 933-947.

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Child Language Development and Disorders

Dr. Elin Thordardottir

Language development and language disorders in children with emphasis on assessment and intervention. In particular: language development and language disorders in children speaking English, French and Icelandic, and bilingual children; development of language assessment tools and methods for children speaking French and Icelandic, and for bilingual children; cross-linguistic comparison of normal and impaired language development; intervention methods for monolingual and bilingual children.
  • Child Language Development & Disorders Lab

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Latest publications

THORDARDOTTIR, E. (Elin Thordardottir & Anna Gudrun Juliusdottir) (2012). Icelandic as a second language: A longitudinal study of language knowledge and processing by school-age children. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1-25. DOI:10.10801/ 13670050.2012.693062.

-(Thordardottir, E., Kehayia, E., Mazer, B., Lessard, N., Majnemer, A., Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., & Chilingarian, G.) (2011). Sensitivity and specificity of French language measures for the identification of Primary Language Impairment at age 5. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 54, 580-597.

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