To understand phonology – the science of how speakers process sounds – say something, and think about how your tongue must move to make exactly the right sounds. Then try to explain that motion to someone else: it’s not an easy task. But what if you could actually see the tongue in action? Now, those struggling with articulation problems can do just that – and on Friday afternoon, so can you.
On March 24, the Linguistics Department at Memorial will showcase its two new labs, giving the public and the media a chance to see the latest technology in language acquisition and to talk with experts.
“How do children start with no language, and end up being good speakers of their language in just a couple of years of life?” asks Dr. Yvan Rose, a leading researcher in phonology who is helping put Memorial’s Linguistics Department – the only one in Atlantic Canada – at the forefront of helping unravel the mysteries of how children acquire language and develop speech patterns or problems.
In introducing the new Speech Sciences and Language Acquisition Lab, Dr. Rose will explain how the facilities can further an understanding of the complex physical and cognitive factors that come together as children learn to speak.
The lab includes a soundproof recording booth that he says provides a high-quality acoustic environment, and has been decorated to appeal to very young research subjects whose speech patterns will be analyzed. Several new computers enable acoustic analysis, and allow for online experiments and data processing.
Dr. Rose will also demonstrate a compact ultrasound machine that, when held under a person’s chin as they speak, provides a live image of the tongue in action.
“This provides visual feedback on the movement of the tongue. Just a slight change in physical positioning can make a big difference in sound,” Dr. Rose explains. “By seeing this, speakers with poor articulation or tongue control can improve their articulations more easily and more rapidly.”
Video technology makes it possible for a subject to take away a film of the tongue.
The neighbouring Aboriginal Language Research Lab, also new, is an important resource centre for those involved in the study of Aboriginal languages. This lab houses the department's Native Language Archives.
Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie will be on hand to talk about her Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) project, called Knowledge and Human Resources for Innu Language Development. The project aims to maintain and strengthen Innu-aimun, a Labrador language that, unlike most Aboriginal languages, is still learned by children. Dr. Mackenzie and her colleagues are compiling a dictionary that will serve as a valuable educational resource for both students and teachers, many of whom arrive in Innu communities not speaking the language.
Memorial researchers are also involved in the preservation of Cayuga (Iroquoian) phonology and grammar, as well as in a first-ever study into how children acquire the Cree language.
All are welcome to attend the Linguistics Labs Open House, in the Science Building, Rooms SN4044 and SN4046, on Friday, March 24 from 1 – 4 p.m. The technology demonstration by Dr. Rose will begin at 1:30 p.m.