I like to understand how things work, to really get inside them and figure out what makes things operate the way they do. I always have.
In particular, I am fascinated with the fact that 7.7 billion people in the world manipulate a very small portion of the body in different ways to create the sounds of the more than 7000 documented spoken languages in the world.... and I want to know how that works.
I use a variety of experimental methods and tools to investigate how speakers of different languages and dialects mold and shape their vocal tract to produce the sounds of their language, as well as how listeners perceive and process these sounds.
Knowledge of these features of speech production and perception can help explain sound patterns that we observe as languages evolve over time, predict future language evolution, and teach us about the physical and cognitive characteristics of our shared capacity for human language.
My current research questions include:
How do simultaneous changes in the oral and nasal tracts affect the acoustic signal in similar and in different ways?
Can listener misperception of articulatory input lead to predictable patterns in sound change on the individual level?
How can we leverage machine learning techniques to identify physiological and psychological conditions from speech recordings?
How adaptable are multimodal articulatory strategies? Are separate articulations processed as independent parts of a whole, or as cohesive units in a unitary strategy?
How do professional singers shape their vocal tract during song, and how does this differ from when they are speaking?
What prosodic information from lexical tone is encoded in non-verbal visual cues?
How can we use computational modeling to introduce big-data approaches that advance academic, clinical, and industrial applications of speech data?
This research helps to enrich the understanding of how our species uses uniquely human physical and cognitive abilities in uniquely human ways... which, ultimately, helps to satisfy my desire to figure out how things work.
In short: I love my job!