Dr Christine Kitamura
Psychology (School of Social Science and Psychology)
Research Program: Speech and Language
I obtained my PhD from the University of New South Wales in 1999, and my expertise is in the area of language acquisition and infant-directed speech. My long-held pursuit has been to understand how exposure to the exaggerated emotional prosody embodied in infant-directed speech functions to (i) maintain infant attention, (ii) facilitate early mother-infant communication, and (iii) bootstrap language acquisition. The exploration of the function of infant-directed input has led me to probe the interface of infant-directed speech and language acquisition, including two common conditions that hinder it: infant hearing impairment and at-risk status of dyslexia. How such conditions undermine mother-infant interaction and speech acquisition not only inform models of speech perception and dyadic interaction, but also have implications for the design of infant hearing prostheses, intervention programs for language-impaired children, and the modelling of human interactive behaviour more generally.
My current research interests focus on: (1) Auditory-visual speech processing using naturally expressive continuous speech (infant directed speech) to chart the development of infants’ sensitivity to visual prosodic and articulatory cues conveyed by motion in different regions of the face and head. (2) The use of accent variation to probe how normal children, and those with language difficulties (dyslexia and autism) develop word constancy across different accents (pronunciations) of the same word. The development of a precursory pattern is seen in young infants who, by 9 months, show undifferentiated responses to their own and another accent. This signals the emergence of language constancy, or the recognition that different accents belong to a common language. (3) Infant-directed speech - Infant-directed speech is a unique speech style used the world over, and most people, whether they are parents or not, instinctively, and often unknowingly, speak like this to infants. IDS is a sophisticated human speech register with unique features which include higher pitch, enhanced positive emotion, more distinctive pitch contours, and hyperarticulated vowels. Attention to speech is critical to learning language, and infants actively seek out the exaggerated speech components found in infant-directed speech.
Qualifications and Honours
PhD, University of New South Wales, 1999
BA (Hons), Psychology, University of New South Wales
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Researcher in MARCS Baby Lab, Marcs Institute
Accent on language development: Using dialects to trace how children come to recognize spoken words, Psychology 332-334.(2012).
Modified spectral tilt affects older, but not younger, infants' native-language fricative discrimination, Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 54, 658–667. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0177)(2011).
Mommy, speak clearly: Induced hearing loss shapes vowel hyperarticulation, Developmental Science, 2011, 1–10. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01118.x(2011).
Maternal interactions with a hearing and hearing-impaired twin: Similarities and differences in speech input, interaction quality, and word production, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 53, 543–555.(2010).
- Kitamura, C, Panneton, R., Best, C. (in press). The development of language constancy: Attention to native and non-native accents. Child Development.
- Mulak, K. E., Best, C. T., Tyler, M. D., Kitamura, C., Bundgaard‐Nielsen, R. (in press). Development of phonological constancy: 19-month-olds, but not 15-month-olds, identify words spoken in a non-native regional accent. Child Development.
- Best, C., & Kitamura, C. (2012). Accent on language development: Using dialects to trace how children come to recognize spoken words, Psychology 332-334.
- Lam, C. & Kitamura, C. (2012). Mommy, speak clearly: Induced hearing loss shapes vowel hyperarticulation. Developmental Science, 15, 212-221.
- Beach, E., & Kitamura, C. (2011). Modified spectral tilt affects older, but not younger, infants' native-language fricative discrimination,Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 54, 658–667. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0177).
- Lam, C., & Kitamura, C. (2010). Maternal interactions with a hearing and hearing-impaired twin: Similarities and differences in speech input, interaction quality, and word production, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 53, 543–555.