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What we study

We study the language development of Portuguese infants and young children, and of children that have the Portuguese language as one of their language inputs. Our main goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the language acquisition process, a process about which still very little is known.

Our research focuses on language perception and comprehension in children, as well as on speech production before the first words and at the beginnings of word and phrase production. What do children between the ages of 4 and 36 months know about language, and about their native language in particular? Language acquisition is not a process that begins when children utter their first words. Long before that children must learn to decode the speech signal and detect individual sounds, sound combinations or words. How do children recognize words in the speech stream? In writting, words are separated by spaces, but in speech they are continuously joined to one another. When and how do babies identify constrasting sounds like g and p in the words gato (cat) and pato (duck)? When are they able to recognize different stress patterns, or different melodies (e.g. 'a mamã chegou' may mean 'Mum has arrived' or 'Has mum arrived?' depending on the melody used)? How do children learn new words?