The long-term goal of this research program is to develop a complete theoretical account of how children acquire access to segmental speech structure when there are no apparent landmarks for that structure in the acoustic signal. Early work on this project examined how children's sensitivity to and weighting of acoustic cues affected the emergence of segmental structure in their speech perception and production. That work revealed that young children weight dynamic spectral cues (formant transitions) especially strongly and certainly more than adults. Because formant transitions are brief sections of longer, continuously changing patterns of vocal-tract resonances those results were interpreted as suggesting that the research focus should move beyond the cue. Building upon the work of others showing that that there are optimal strategies for perceptually organizing the acoustic speech signal, this project currently focuses on how children learn to use global acoustic structure in speech perception and production.
Six Specific Aims will address these hypotheses:
Aim #1 : Global properties of speech are more readily organized over signal stretches that span several syllables, rather than over brief stretches.
Aim #2 : Coherence Masking Protection for speech signals arises explicitly from being able to recover a sound-generating object.
Aim #3 : Children with language-learning problems are particularly poor at perceptually organizing the speech signal in a coherent manner.
Aim #4 : Cognitive and attentional resources are more greatly taxed with degraded than natural speech signals.
Aim #5 : Children are more hindered than adults in their speech perception by signals with broad formants.
Aim #6 : Learning to organize speech gestures in production is more difficult with degraded signals as the models. Attaining these aims will broaden our understanding of what is involved in learning a native language. Outcomes will impact our theories regarding language-related disorders of childhood, and influence treatment.

Public Health Relevance

Language-learning deficits are nothing short of devastating for a child. They may start out appearing innocuous in nature: A child might seem quieter than others, have some articulation problems, or be a little slow to learn words. But as the child goes through school, the deleterious consequences of language deficits may accumulate and can almost seem to metastasize into other problems, such as reading problems, attention deficits, social awkwardness, or general learning difficulties. This work will continue an ongoing project designed to investigate what must be learned when children acquire spoken language, how they go about doing so, and what goes wrong when problems arise.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01DC000633-25
Application #
8431423
Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Shekim, Lana O
Project Start
1988-12-01
Project End
2016-02-29
Budget Start
2013-03-01
Budget End
2014-02-28
Support Year
25
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$307,859
Indirect Cost
$105,984
Name
Ohio State University
Department
Otolaryngology
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
832127323
City
Columbus
State
OH
Country
United States
Zip Code
43210
Nittrouer, Susan; Lowenstein, Joanna H (2014) Dynamic spectral structure specifies vowels for adults and children. Lang Speech 57:487-512
Nittrouer, Susan; Tarr, Eric; Bolster, Virginia et al. (2014) Low-frequency signals support perceptual organization of implant-simulated speech for adults and children. Int J Audiol 53:270-84
Nittrouer, Susan; Lowenstein, Joanna H; Wucinich, Taylor et al. (2014) Benefits of preserving stationary and time-varying formant structure in alternative representations of speech: implications for cochlear implants. J Acoust Soc Am 136:1845-56
Nittrouer, Susan; Lowenstein, Joanna H (2014) SEPARATING THE EFFECTS OF ACOUSTIC AND PHONETIC FACTORS IN LINGUISTIC PROCESSING WITH IMPOVERISHED SIGNALS BY ADULTS AND CHILDREN. Appl Psycholinguist 35:333-370
Moberly, Aaron C; Lowenstein, Joanna H; Tarr, Eric et al. (2014) Do adults with cochlear implants rely on different acoustic cues for phoneme perception than adults with normal hearing? J Speech Lang Hear Res 57:566-82
Nittrouer, Susan; Caldwell-Tarr, Amanda; Lowenstein, Joanna H (2013) Working memory in children with cochlear implants: problems are in storage, not processing. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 77:1886-98
Tarr, Eric; Nittrouer, Susan (2013) Explaining coherence in coherence masking protection for adults and children. J Acoust Soc Am 133:4218-31
Nittrouer, Susan; Lowenstein, Joanna H (2013) Perceptual organization of speech signals by children with and without dyslexia. Res Dev Disabil 34:2304-25
Nittrouer, Susan; Tarr, Eric (2011) Coherence masking protection for speech in children and adults. Atten Percept Psychophys 73:2606-23
Nittrouer, Susan; Shune, Samantha; Lowenstein, Joanna H (2011) What is the deficit in phonological processing deficits: auditory sensitivity, masking, or category formation? J Exp Child Psychol 108:762-85

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