Understanding Accents and Dialects

"My experience in the Memory and Psycholinguistics in Learning and Education Laboratory is enriching my exposure to psychological research, and has encouraged me to incorporate graduate psycholinguistic research following the completion of my undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Communication Science and Disorders, and Linguistics."

Supervising Faculty: Scott Fraundorf

Contact : sfraundo@pitt.edu

Area of Research: Cognitive

Description of Research: Have you ever noticed that even when people speak the language, we often have different accents or dialects?  For example, a person from Pittsburgh might say "Yinz better wait before going dahntahn; those potholes on Bigelow need filled in first." If you aren't from Pittsburgh, this sentence might be a bit more difficult to understand. But in general, our mind is still quite good at figuring out the meaning behind such sentences, even if the speech sounds or syntax are unfamiliar to us. 

In today’s global society, we frequently communicate with people who don’t share our same accent or dialect, including people who are non-native speakers of a language. We’re conducting research to understand how people process accent and dialect-related variability in speech to answer questions like: Do listeners engage in different comprehension strategies based when hearing accented speech? Do people adapt to accented speech over time? Do people adapt to entire accent categories (e.g., all speakers of “Pittsburghese”), or do people only adapt to individual speakers? And, what are the cognitive mechanisms supporting comprehension of accented speech?

 Duties of Students:

  • Help design experimental materials (such as creating and recording sentences, building experiments in Qualtrics, or doing sound editing).
  • Assist with recruiting and testing participants (following training).
  • Help code and analyze data from the studies.
  • Read scientific papers from this area of research and discuss them in lab meetings.


Number of Students: Varies 

Terms offered: Fall and Spring

Lab page: http://www.maple-lab.org