Women in Academia

Jenny Zeng on Speech and Music Perception in Infants and Cognitive Advantages of Bilingualism

July 13, 2020 Irena Lovcevic Season 1 Episode 7
Women in Academia
Jenny Zeng on Speech and Music Perception in Infants and Cognitive Advantages of Bilingualism
Show Notes

Today it's great to have Jenny Zeng on the podcast. Jenny is a PhD student at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University. Jenny's PhD thesis focuses on the infants' cue weighting in speech and music rhythm perception. Stress-timed languages contain lexical stress that is made up of relative stronger cues such as pitch, intensity and duration, which listeners use to segment/group information, and the perception of which is dependent on the rhythmical nature of the language or languages they are learning. English is a stress-timed language, for which lexical stress is used to convey meaning, whereas Mandarin is syllable-timed language which does not differentiate meaning through lexical stress. Similarly, in music, the perception of rhythm is through accentuation (stronger over weaker beats) that is also characterised by cues such as pitch, intensity and duration. Given the similarity across the two domains, Jenny's project examines if early (preverbal infancy) experience with richer language rhythmicity has a positive transfer effect in the music domain, and to what extent the processing of speech rhythm and music rhythm are similar/different. To facilitate accurate and timely measurement of responses to multiple cue-weighting, Jenny is using EEG to measure infants’ responses at the neural level. To hear more about this research and Jenny's research on cognitive advantage of bilingualism, listen to this episode.

Time stamps:

[00:46] Jenny's introduction
[01:26] How experience and knowledge gained while working as a translator inspired Jenny to start her research career
[02:41] Obstacles that Jenny faced in her research journey
[05:00] Work/life balance
[07:40] Jenny's research on cognitive aspects of bilingualism and multilingualism
[09:11] Jenny's research on speech and music rhythm perception
[19:11] Plans for future research
[19:57] Issues that women in Academia are facing today according to Jenny
[20:29] Jenny's advice for everyone thinking about a career in Academia or for those just starting a career in Academia


The MARCS Institute: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/marcs
The MARCS BabyLab: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/babylab
Western Sydney University: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/
Australian Linguistic Society: https://als.asn.au/
National Taiwan University: https://www.ntu.edu.tw/english/

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