How the language we speak guides the way we listen

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Two people who hear exactly the same speech sounds will process them differently depending on what their own native language prepares them to expect.

This means that greater importance may be attached to some kinds of cues, while others are ignored. Thus, for example, cues to stress can be exactly the same in two languages, but in one language it is possible to get away with ignoring most of them, while in the other listeners need to use all the cues.

Each language trains its listeners in particular ways. Understanding how our own languages prompt us to listen for certain cues may allow us to predict problems as well as opportunities in second-language acquisition.

Professor Anne Cutler is a Chief Investigator of the Language Processing program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. She studied languages and psychology at the Universities of Melbourne, Berlin and Bonn, taught German at Monash University, but embraced psycholinguistics as soon as it emerged as an independent sub-discipline, taking a PhD in the subject at the University of Texas. Postdoctoral fellowships at MIT and Sussex University followed, and from 1982 to 1993 a staff position at the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge. In 1993 she became a director at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, a post she held till 2013. She was also professor of comparative psycholinguistics at the Radboud University Nijmegen from 1995 to 2013, and, from 2006 to 2013, part-time Research Professor in MARCS Auditory Laboratories. In 2013 she took up a full-time position at the MARCS Institute.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language will secure fragile language heritage, develop newlanguage technologies, connect policy with indigenous and migrant communities, and build strategies to help first and second language learning and those isolated by language difficulties.