Research to help people communicate better

30 October 2013

A University of Canterbury researcher wants to find out how New Zealanders understand speech, to help people communicate better.

A University of Canterbury researcher wants to find out how New Zealanders understand speech, to help people communicate better.

UC’s Associate Professor Megan McAuliffe will begin a three year study to highlight hearing and speech issues. Science and Finance Minister Steven Joyce yesterday announced New Zealand’s top researchers had been awarded a record $59 million in Marsden funding over the next three years.

Professor McAuliffe, along with her colleague Dr Don Sinex, received $543,000 for her project from the record funding announced, which included $5.5 million for 11 UC researchers.

"I am working on what differences in vocabulary, hearing and memory play in speech perception. People have the ability to turn the complex variations in acoustic energy that comprise the speech signal into something understandable.

"When we read, this task is made easy by the presence of white spaces between words, but in connected speech it is not that simple. So how do listeners identify words within the speech stream and turn it into something meaningful?

"Our research at UC’s New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour suggests that theoretical models of speech perception developed and tested on young university students may not be representative of perceptual processing as we age,’’ Professor McAuliffe says.

UC linguistics lecturer Dr Lynn Clark is researching a similar area and received $300,000 of Marsden funding to explore New Zealand English and its pronunciation variations.

"One of the novelties of my research will be in me using the new UC QuakeStories database to answer some of my research questions. The QuakeStories database is a collection of 723 earthquake stories from people who lived through the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes,’’ Dr Clark says.

Dr Brendon Bradley, one of 11 UC researchers to be awarded Marsden funding yesterday, received $300,000 to investigate the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

His study will combine state-of-the-art techniques in seismology and geotechnical earthquake engineering to develop a unified understanding of the seismic ground motions, such as those observed in the Canterbury earthquakes. 

His research will have a national and international impact in the assessment and mitigation of earthquake hazards in major cities.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz