Phonological Stream

  Silvia Benavides-Varela


Title of the lecture: Let's start from the crib: how early perception and memory capacities shape language acquisition in the first months of life

Co-teacher: Amanda Saksida

Silvia Benavides-Varela is an Assistant Professor at Padua University. She is trained as biotechnology engineer from the Costarican Institute of Technology. She obtained her PhD. in Neuroscience from SISSA in Italy and did post-doctoral work at Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception & Universitè Paris Descartes, France, IRCCS Fondazione Ospedale San Camillo (Lido-Venice). Her research focuses on developing new methods for unveiling the initial state of auditory and memory capacities in human infants, the environmental factors that modulate learning, and the properties of the brain systems that support language and mathematic achievements across the life-span. She uses a range of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques including eye-tracking and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS).

  Natalie Boll-Avetisyan


Co-teacher: Paul O. Omane
Title of the lecture: Comparative psycholinguistic methods for studying infants' development of language-specific phonological knowledge

Natalie Boll-Avetisyan is Assistant Professor of Developmental Psycholinguistics at the University of Potsdam, Germany. She has been trained as a linguist at the Universities of Mainz, Germany, and Utrecht, the Netherlands. For her PhD thesis supervised by René Kager and defended in 2012 at Utrecht University, she focused on the acquisition of phonotactics by infants and adult second language learners. During her postdoc years, she was part of the Potsdam BabyLAB led by Barbara Höhle. Her main research interest is in studying the roles of universal abilities and experience in early language acquisition. She pursues a comparative psycholinguistics approach, and compares mono- and bilingually-raised infants learning different native languages. As she has a special interest in understudied languages and understudied populations, her group is currently extending lab-based methods (behavioral & ERPs) to the field (e.g., mobile eye-tracking).

  Liquan Liu

Title of the lecture: Tone development in infancy and early childhood.
: Jenny Zeng

Liquan Liu is a Lecturer at School of Psychology, Western Sydney University and is affiliated with Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo.  His main research interests lie in infant learning and development.

  Marina Kalashnikova

Title of the lecture: Early predictors of typical and atypical language development

Dr. Marina Kalashnikova is the leader of the Infant Language and Cognition research group at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language. She investigates the process of early language acquisition, specifically the emergence and consolidation of speech perception and word-learning over monolingual and bilingual infants’ first two years of life. The primary aim of her work is to define the earliest determinants of later individual language ability.

  Titia Benders

Title for the lecture: When children say more than adults can hear: Covert contrasts in children’s early speech-sound productions.

Anwar Alkhudidi

Titia Benders is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Deputy-Director of the Child Language Lab at Macquarie University. She is also a member of the Macquarie University Phonetics and Phonology Lab, and the Centre for Language Sciences (CLaS). Benders investigates developing phonological representations at the interface between perception, production, and input. Her main interest is the acquisition of segmental and prosodic representations by by children between 6 months and 6 years of age, who acquire one or more languages, without or with hearing loss. A second line of research concerns the linguistic and emotional properties of infant-directed speech by parents (i.e., both mothers and fathers). Benders' work routinely includes techniques from phonetics, developmental psychology, and recent statistical insights

Anwar Alkhudidi is a teaching assistant at Um-Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia. She holds a BA in English Language from Taif University in Saudi Arabia and two master’s degrees in Linguistics, one from the University of Western Ontario/Canada and the second one from Macquarie University. She is currently doing her PhD in Linguistics at Macquarie University. Her main area of interest include child phonology, L2 phonology, and bilingualism.

Lexical Stream

  Sarah C. Kucker

Title of the lecture: Mechanisms and Timescales Underlying Word Learning

Dr. Sarah Kucker is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University in the United States. Her research examines the mechanisms and processes underlying word learning and cognitive development with an emphasis on a dynamic systems approach to language development in infants and toddlers. Her work has a particular focus on examining the broader impacts of context and individual differences in the process of learning. Dr. Kucker also teaches various courses in developmental psychology, language and cognition, and research methods in psychology.

  Nivedita Mani

Title for the lecture: Unpacking the how and why of early word learning

Nivedita Mani is Professor of Psychology of Language at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. Her work examines the factors underlying word learning and recognition in young children and views word learning as the result of a dynamic mutual interaction between the environment and the learner, with particular focus on the learner and what she knows, what she is interested in and, more recently, her motivation to learn.
She is principal investigator on a number of projects funded by the German Research Foundation (and the British Academy during her time in the UK). She has published extensively in her field, including the recent co-edited Volume Early Word Learning. She was elected to the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen in 2017 and has won prizes for her research, including the Fritz-Behrens Stifung Science prize.
She received a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2006. Following a short spell at the Center for Child Language at University of Southern Denmark, Odense, she returned to Oxford for a post-doctoral position between 2006 and 2008. During this time, she was also appointed as Career Development Fellow in Psychology at St Hugh's College, Oxford. She then moved to University College London on a British Academy post-doctoral fellowship examining phonological priming in infancy. She moved to Göttingen in January 2010 to set up the Psychology of Language Research Group and the associated infant language lab, WortSchatzInsel.

  Ramona Kunene Nicolas

Title for the lecture: Early lexical acquisition in Bantu languages

Ramona Kunene Nicolas (PhD) is a senior lecturer at the university of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in the Linguistics department. She earned her PhD in Psycholinguistics at the Université Grenoble Alpes, France. Her research interests include bilingualism, social cognition, language development, discourse analysis, multimodality of language (speech and co-speech gesture) and cross-linguistic typologies. Her main focus is on Bantu languages and South African languages.