Marziye Eshghi, a PhD student in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, recently received the designation of best paper, first place in the competition, from the 171st meeting of Acoustical Society of America in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Eshghi’s research focuses on patterns of nasal coarticulation in early childhood development. Coarticulation refers to the overlapping of articulatory gestures during production of adjacent sounds in connected speech production. Investigation of early development of coarticulation patterns is important as it can reveal information about the mechanical characteristics of speech production as well as when young children master adult-like motor planning skills in speech production.
Eshghi became interested in studying nasal coarticulation in children after recognizing the lack of research in nasalization for young infants. Eshghi’s research is promising for two reasons. First, a novel nasal ram pressure (NRP) technique was used in this study to obtain physiological information about the status of the velopharyngeal port in the transition from a nasal consonant to a vowel or from a vowel to a nasal consonant. This approach has not been used previously. Second, this study investigated nasal coarticulation by infants at three age points: 12, 14, and 18 months of age.
Coarticulation data from early infancy fills the gap in the literature and extends our understanding about early motor planning skills. Results of the study revealed that while only 20 percent of vowels showed either carry-over or anticipatory nasal coarticulation at 12 months of age, this amount increased to 62 percent and 77 percent of vowels produced at 14 and 18 months of age, respectively. Findings of the study may also shed light on contradictory findings in the literature by showing that while nasal coarticulation occurs in the speech of young children, it develops gradually over time from a more segmental to a syllabic level.
Eshghi said the results of this study will also be significant in establishing a base from which subsequent investigations of nasal coarticulation patterns in other populations, such as children with cleft lip and palate, can be conducted.
Eshghi said she is happy to see the hard work invested in this study rewarded through this honorable recognition in the Acoustical Society of America, which she described as the light at the end of the tunnel. She credits her mentors for supporting her through this study by providing insightful comments and guidance. She is especially thankful toward her mentor, David Zajac, for instilling in her the drive to continue in her intellectual pursuits through his encouragement and motivation.
Eshghi currently holds a PhD degree in linguistics, and her research interest is in the neural basis of speech production and perception. Upon her completion of the doctorate program in 2017, she hopes to spend her post-doctoral phase examining neural functional activity in various brain areas during speech production and perception.
“This recognition makes me grateful and reminds me that I am on the right track. However, this is just the beginning of my journey. I will continue to work hard and strive to achieve higher goals.”
-Public relations and communications interns Mackenzie Hudson and Brianna Cooper