STEP Reflection

STEP Experience: Undergraduate Research


This summer I started my own project in the linguistic psychology lab. This lab studies spoken word recognition. I have been working there for a year and the professor in charge wanted me to start my own project this summer. I am bilingual and my second language is Tamil. I started a project to study how Tamil speakers perceive certain word combinations. A previous experiment showed that Tamil speakers perceive words that begin with /sr/ differently than English speakers. This is because words beginning with /sr/ are illegal in English, but they are legal in Tamil. I researched more illegal word beginnings for Tamil and English.

I created surveys for my family members to find out how common words that begin with /sr/ are. I found that there are some common words used in everyday language. I then asked them to record themselves saying the words. This was to find out if they actually begin with /sr/ or is there an epenthetic vowel in between. Using these results I will create the final experiment.

This spring, I started to conduct this experiment. I ran 8 people, ungraduates and graduate students who speak Tamil. They had to listen to Tamil words I recorded. They then had to spell out those words. They also read Tamil words and repeated them, these were recorded. I spent time kooking at the recordings and analyzing if they produced epenthetic vowels. They did, with great variability. I also looked at their typed responses to see if they added vowels or elimniated them. Like with the speech data, there was great variability. The data pertaining to the speech part of the data was presented it at the Denman. I plan on turning this project into my senior thesis in the fall.

So what?

I learned quite a few things about myself this summer. I learned that I could work many hours learning about a language that I have known since I started talking. I have learned much about the language that I did not know before. I thought that this project would be finished quickly with results. I have learned to be patient when it comes to working towards data. I look forward to moving forward with this project.

Now what?

I have learned a lot during this experience that will help me grow in the future. I have learned how to conduct research for an experiment. I know how to spend time getting good information that will help understand the questions I am trying to study. I learned how to ask for help from other scientists and researchers in the field. I have learned how to create an experiment in the field, one that will allow me to study this in the future. I have learned that this is the right path for me in the future.