Institute for Intelligent Systems

Projects: iVoc

PI: Kimbrough Oller
Co-PI: Eugene Buder

When infants vocalize, parents listen; in fact everybody listens. But what do we hear, and how do we react?

Research in the iVoc project focuses on the categories of sounds that babies
make: squeals, growls, raspberries, and little vowel- like sounds. But these infant sounds are different from cry and laughter because cry is always negative and laughter positive, whereas squeals and growls can show any emotion.

Parents notice not only the emotions but also the fact that these sounds come in repetitive chunks indicating the infant’s control over them. These sounds are early foundations for language that no other primate ever shows. And parents react by paying attention to baby sounds and using them as information about the baby’s well-being.

The iVoc project studies how baby sounds and parent reactions to them can help us predict a child’s development, and identify disorders such as hearing impairment and autism.


  • Vocal exploration and interaction in the emergence of speech. Funding Agency: NIH, NIDCD. $2,903,000.

Selected Publications:

  • Oller, D. K., Buder, E. H., Ramsdell, H. L., Chorna, L., Warlaumont, A. S., & Bakeman, R. (2013). Functional flexibility of infant vocalization and the emergence of language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1300337110
  • Oller, D. K., Niyogi, P., Gray, S., Richards, J. A., Gilkerson, J., Xu, D., Yapanel, U., & Warren, S. F. (2010). Automated vocal analysis of naturalistic recordings from children with autism, language delay, and typical development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(30), 13354–13359.
  • Preston, J. L., Ramsdell, H. L., Oller, D. K., Edwards, M. L., & Tobin, S. J. (2011). Developing a weighted measure of speech sound accuracy. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 54, 1–18.
  • Warlaumont, A. S., Westermann, G., & Oller, D. K. (2011). Self-production facilitates and adult input interferes in a neural network model of infant vowel imitation. Proceedings of the AISB-11 Meeting. York, U.K. Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour.


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Last Updated: 7/1/13