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PhD Defence Laura de Ruiter
March 16, 2010
In contrast to previous research, which has been based on reading (with adults) or on imitation tasks (with children), De Ruiter based her dissertation studies on a corpus of unconstrained speech, elicited by means of a picture story-telling task. Her research indicates that the intonation of young children (five and seven years of age) is very much like that of adults. Children, for instance, also stress new information and know that old (given) information doesn't need to be stressed. But there are also differences: in contrast to adults, five-year-olds do not use intonation to indicate that they haven't finished talking yet. Even seven-year-olds cannot yet produce all the specific intonation patterns that adults use. Childrens' use of information structure may sound adult-like, but close acoustic analyses show that there are still differences in the intonation patterns of children and adults.
De Ruiter also found that the intonation of read speech differs significantly from the intonation used in spontaneous speech. And because children listen to spontaneous speech more often than they listen to reading, this might be an important distinction for language researchers.
Laura de Ruiter was awarded a scholarship from the Max-Planck- Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften (MPG) in 2005 to work on her doctoral dissertation at the MPI for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen. As a PhD student, she was PhD representative for the Humanities Section of the MPG PhDnet. Currently, De Ruiter holds a post-doctoral position at the Cognitive Interaction Technology Excellence Cluster (CITEC) at Bielefeld University, Germany.