UC Berkeley Phonology Lab

current research projects.


Phonology Lab

50-52 Dwinelle Hall
University of California, Berkeley


Cross linguistic studies on spoken language processing. Completed NIH Grant (Keith Johnson)

The long-term objective of this research project is to understand human spoken language processing (particularly speech perception and auditory word recognition) in linguistic context. Speech signals are unique in human experience because they are highly familiar, and have great practical significance in daily life. Therefore, it is not too surprising to find that people develop optimized processing strategies tuned specifically for speech. In this work we study how this tuning process may be sensitive to linguistic structure. Cross-linguistic spoken language research is important because without it we are in danger of concluding that the phenomena found in one language (or even dialect) are somehow normative for speakers of other languages. Such a narrow understanding of 'normal' spoken language processing is likely to have a negative impact on clinical speech and hearing practice in a pluralistic society.

Visual phonetic aspects of sound change. NSF Grant (Keith Johnson)

Using movies of speech, in which we manipulate the phonetic information in both the audio and video tracks, we are studying the role of visual information in perceptual confusions (and non-confusions) that may be involved in sound change. In this project we have developed capacity for high-quality audio-video recording of speech, for taking phonetic measurements from movies, and for conducting audio-visual speech perception experiments.


Speech production (Susan Lin)

Using a combination of ultrasound articulator imaging and measurement of aerodynamic properties, we are studying the production of complex segments.

Phonetic Neuroscience (Keith Johnson & Matthias Sjerps)

With collaborators at UCSF, we are using electrocorticography to document detailed patterns of neural activity during speech production and perception.


student research support

Students have successfully sought funding for their research from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the UC Berkeley Graduate Division, the UC Berkeley Council of Graduate Students, the Abigail Hodgen Fund for Women in the Social Sciences, and of course, the Department of Linguistics.

Holbrook fund

Phonetics research at UC Berkeley is generously supported by an endowment - the Holbook fund. This fund makes it possible to periodically buy workstations and equipment for general phonetic research.


Research collaborations exist with several colleagues at Berkeley and in the Bay Area.

Professor John Houde (UCSF) works with students in the lab and sits in on seminars when time permits. He studies sensory-motor adaptation in speech and the neural correlates of speech perception and speech motor control.

Dr. Edward Chang (UCSF) collaborates with Prof. Johnson and works with students in the lab. He studies the neurophysiology of speech production and perception. Professor Nelson Morgan (Department of Electrical Engineering, ICSI) is valuable colleage and teacher. His research specialization is in automatic speech recognition. He hosts the weekly ICSI "speech lunch".

Professor Dan Klein (Department of Computer Science) specializes in natural language processing. We've collaborated with him to make speech corpora available via the Berkeley Language Center.