Although the focus of much research into speech development has been to establish when ‘adult-like’ performance is reached (with young adult speakers taken as a ‘norm’), it is increasingly clear that speech perception and production abilities are undergoing constant change across the lifespan as a result of physical changes, exposure to language variation, and cognitive changes at various periods of our lives. Few studies have examined changes in speech production or perception measures across the lifespan using common materials and experimental designs. Lifespan studies can further our understanding of the extent and direction of these changes for key measures of speech communication and of how these changes interact with cognitive, social or sensory factors. Such knowledge is essential to refine and extend models of speech perception and production.
The workshop will provide an opportunity for interactions between researchers from areas of speech and language sciences research that may be focused on different developmental stages, e.g. early development and ageing. It will also discuss methodological issues, such as how to overcome the difficulty of developing tests that are equally appropriate for children, younger and older adults, and will consider ‘missing gaps’ in the developmental trajectory, e.g. data for older teenagers and middle-aged adults.
The workshop is organised under the aegis of ESRC project ES/L007002/1 on ‘Speech communication in older adults: an acoustic and perceptual investigation’. We acknowledge financial support from the ESRC, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL and UK-SPEECH group.