Lu, Jerry: Analyzing the Acoustics of Infant-Directed Mandarin Speech

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Project Summary

The goal of the project I worked on was to identify characteristics of speech that could help researchers better understand how babies learn language. First, I worked on determining whether perceptual linear predictive (PLP) analysis, which is a sort of acoustic analysis that approximates the spectrum of pitches in a word, accurately quantifies the similarity between word instances. This research was based on 276 utterances from one mother, a native Mandarin speaker. We also examined variables like pitch, word duration and a word’s place within a sentence and how these variables related to word similarity. Finally, I also began on a part of the project that broke up sentences into syllables without using existing knowledge about where words began and started in the sentence.

Through this research experience, I learned about the methods and concepts used in psychology research. I had always been interested in research, but I had not been able to find an accessible way to participate in a research project that really interested me. After participating in this project, I have a better understanding of how to conduct a study and gather data. In particular, I learned about organizing and analyzing data, which was the majority of the work I did in this project. In terms of specific skills, I learned how to use programming languages like Python and R for analyzing data, and I learned to create graphs, plots, and research posters.

Working on this project contributed to my educational experience by giving me a better idea of how academic research is conducted. Now, I can also appreciate the work that professors do, as they are very involved in research, on top of their administrative and teaching duties. Furthermore, this project gave me a look into the applications of my education, as much of my work involved concepts I had learned from classes or other sources. Specifically, programming techniques from my computer science classes and concepts from linguistics were very relevant to my work.