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Linguistic development in adoptees

Trainee Achievements

Linguistic development in adoptees

IGERT Trainee Adrienne Scutellaro has begun examining how young U.S. adoptees from other countries learn the specific speech sounds of English and how this influences their early English word learning abilities. Scutellaro, with her advisor Daniel Swingley, are using a highly sensitive measure of speech perception: Children’s eye movements are recorded as they hear speech referring to pictures on a computer screen. Some words are ‘mispronounced’ such that a particular phoneme is wrong (e.g., pronouncing “cup” as “kawp”), which usually disrupt eye movement patterns. Scutellaro is studying 14-26 month old adoptees from Ethiopia, whose native language Amharic does not distinguish between the vowel sounds in “cup” and “kawp.” Preliminary results show that, as compared to non-adoptee children, adoptee children did not yet have this phonological knowledge, impacting their word recognition abilities. Scutellaro is collecting more data to better understand linguistic development in adoptees.