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ERC Starting Grant for Mirjam Ernestus
How do learners of a foreign language understand spontaneous speech in that language? For years, Mirjam Ernestus (RU and MPI) has been studying the language comprehension process, especially the way people understand the ubiquitous phenomenon known as reduced speech. The European Research Council recently awarded her a Starting Grant of 1,5 million euro for her research.
September 9, 2011
Even after years of study, learners of a foreign language still have problems understanding spontaneous conversations. One of the reasons is that in spontaneous speech people often pronounce words in their reduced forms. The Dutch word 'wedstrijd' (game), for instance, can be reduced to 'wes' and a Dutch sentence like 'Het is natuurlijk zo' (It's true, of course) can become something like 'stuukso'. In English, 'yesterday' can be reduced to 'yeshay' and 'computer' to 'kpute'. Foreign language learners usually have great difficulties comprehending such pronunciation variants.
Challenging pronunciation variants
In the ERC project, called The challenge of reduced pronunciation variants in conversational speech for foreign language listeners: experimental research and computational modeling', Ernestus and her colleagues will examine Spanish speakers learning English and Dutch speakers learning French. The project will be accomplished at the Centre for Language Studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen.