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McNair Scholar 2015Sahaam Abdi

Sahaam Abdi is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in linguistics and double minoring in neuroscience and speech language hearing sciences. Her research interests revolve around the neuroscience of language and how a person’s speech and language is impacted by neurodevelopmental disorders or traumatic brain injury. Ms. Abdi plans on getting her M.A. in speech pathology and her Ph.D in neuroscience.

Sahaam Abdi photo
My dream is to be a source of positive influence, inspiration and guidance for anyone striving to pursue their dreams. When people see me, I want them to think, 'if she can do it, so can I'

Research project

Individual Differences in the Acquisition of the /s/ - /S/ Contrast: A Study of Adults’ Perception of Children's Speech

Abstract: Phonology is crucial to the study of child language acquisition. Traditional clinical and research methods often measure sound accuracy as being either correct or incorrect using phonetic transcription. Recent studies show there are intermediate stages between sound productions for children and that it is not as binary as previously thought. The subfield of phonology that is in particular interest for this study is speech production. Trained students recorded, prepared, and listened to stimuli of word-initial /s/ and /S/ produced by a group of 17 children between the ages of 28 to 39 months. Children’s vocabulary, home language environment, executive function, maternal education level, and speech perception were also measured and collected. Adult listeners rated these productions on a visual analog scaling (VAS). The aim of this study is to develop and validate a clinical tool for assessing children’s production that reflects the gradual nature of contrast acquisition and to identify predicting factors for the differentiation of sounds. This study will continue in to the fall of 2015. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Benjamin Munson is currently a professor in the Department of Speech Language Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Munson attended Ohio State University where he received his Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Sciences in 2000. His research focuses on the study of phonological development and disorders. He has published numerous articles in various journals and presents his research internationally. Munson is passionate about teaching and extensively works with undergraduate and graduate students in research. This is his first year being a McNair faculty mentor and hopes to continue as one in the following years.