ISCA Distinguished Lecturer 2016-17



Professor Valerie Hazan

Professor of Speech Sciences, and Head of the Department of Speech Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, UCL (University College London), UK

ISCA Distinguished Lecturer scheme

The International Speech Communication Association (ISCA) started the Distinguished Lecturers Program in 2006. The purpose is to send Distinguished Lecturers to travel to different parts of the world to give lectures to help promote research activities on speech science and technologies. The ISCA Board has identified the following regions as under-represented in ISCA programs and covered by this program: Africa, China, India, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South and West Asia.

ISCA covers the cost of travel and local hosts must make local arrangements and cover costs of accommodation and meals. A tour consists of a minimum of three lectures given in at least two locations within the region. Valerie’s ‘term of office’ as Distinguished Lecturer is between 1 April 2016 and 31 December 2017. Arrangements for a tour need to be made via ISCA but if interested in hosting, please contact Valerie Hazan (v.hazan @ in the first instance.

Research interests

Valerie’s research interests include: speech communication in adverse conditions, speech perception-production interaction, speech development in typically-developing children and children with hearing loss, speech communication in bilinguals and second-language learners. She also has a strong interest in individual differences in perception and production, and in the development of corpora of spontaneous speech interactions for speech analysis.

Possible lecture topics include:

Lecture 1: Speech communication in adverse conditions

Most of our communication occurs in what may be considered ‘adverse’ conditions. Barriers to efficient communication may be acoustic, such as the presence of noise, other voices or reverberation, or may be linguistic, such as the lack of shared language knowledge (in L2 speakers or young children). In this talk, I will review research on communication in adverse conditions and discuss the strategies that speakers use to overcome the effects of these adverse conditions in speech communication.

Lecture 2: Speech perception and production across the lifespan

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’), I will argue in this talk that our speech perception and production abilities are undergoing constant change across the lifespan as a result of physical changes, increasing exposure to language variation, and cognitive changes at various periods of our lives. I will review recent research on speech development across the lifespan and also consider methodological issues that we need to face when carrying out such research.

Lecture 3: Speech communication in second-language learners and bilinguals

The majority of the world’s population is multilingual. Speaking more than one language can lead to cognitive benefits, as seen by recent findings of increased executive function bilingual children. However, it can have a cost too, as even highly proficient second-language speakers may show increased cognitive effort and proportionally increased difficulty in listening to speech in noise than monolinguals. In this talk, I will review recent research in speech sciences investigating these costs and benefits. I will also discuss the use of measures of cognitive load in studies of second language perception.

Lecture 4: Individual variation in speech perception and production

It has been known since the early days of experimental testing of speech perception that individuals vary widely in (a) their overall performance and (b) the weighting that they give to different types of acoustic or linguistic information used to identify sounds or words. This is the case even within a ‘homogeneous’ participant group as determined by factors such as age range and language background. However, little attention has been given to trying to elucidate the causes of these individual differences; many decades on from these early studies, we still have little understanding of what makes a ‘good listener’. In this talk, I will review recent research and will also consider the inter-relation between individual variability in speech perception and the variability also seen in speech production.

Lecture 5: Development of speech perception and production in children with hearing loss

The move towards early cochlear implantation and the availability of high-quality digital aids have led to great changes for children with hearing loss who choose an oral mode of education. In this talk, I will review recent research into speech perception and production development in children with hearing loss.

Lecture 6: Analysing spontaneous speech: benefits and pitfalls

In the ‘real world’, speech is typically produced while interacting with other people and therefore has communicative intent. However, most speech research has been carried out on recordings of words or sentences read by a speaker in a laboratory setting. In recent years, there has been a move towards using more ‘ecologically-valid’ forms of speech. Such corpora may involve spontaneous conversations between speakers, or pairs of speakers carrying a problem-solving task together. In this talk, I will review methods used to produce such corpora and the issues involved in carrying out acoustic-phonetic analyses of large quantities of spontaneous speech.