The LEAPLab Team

Prof. Luca ONNIS (Director)

Luca Onnis is an Assistant Professor at NTU with the department of Linguistics and Multilingual studies. He is also the director of Language Evolution, Acquisition and Plasticity Lab, or LEAP lab.

Luca’s research focuses on mechanisms of learning, and how these apply to language acquisition. In particular, he is interested in mechanisms of statistical learning (SL). SL helps a language learner identify regularities in language — for example, in English “the” is followed by a noun. Luca has contributed to the discovery of certain statistical features in caregivers’ speech that make language learnable to their children. These features are reflected in the learning mechanisms already identified. In other words, the structure of parental speech tells us a lot about the learning mechanisms children use to absorb information in this speech.

His approach to research uses multiple methods:

  • Computer simulations – to discover how learning mechanisms are used to take information from speech. • Use of behavioural paradigms – to see learners’ responses to certain statistical regularities.
  • Brain imaging – to show links in the brain between statistical- and language learning abilities.
  • Comparing young to adult language learners – to examine how language experience affects later language learning.

Luca’s recent studies are on a variety of topics, including: the effect of an adult’s language background on how they learn new languages, the structure of caregiver speech directed at typically and atypically developing children, and bilingualism and its effects on learning mechanisms.

Matthew LOU-MAGNUSON (PhD Student)

Matthew hails from the deep forests and snow capped mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He met Doctor Onnis while pursuing his PhD in historical linguistics and computational modeling at the University of Hawaii, but has now permanently relocated to LEAP at NTU. Matthew takes care of general lab management, as well as heads up the Evolution research stream – whether you want to route the socio-cultural forces that drive diachronic typological change, or more simply, just want a route to our lab space, feel free to contact him at matt0020@e.ntu.edu.sg anytime.

LI Ye Zhou (Joel)

Brought into being in the mysterious town known as the “heaven of Mi-Lu”, in the midst of the vast mainland China, Joel embarked on a journey in pursuing revelation of troves of the nature. An arcane force guided him to a voyage to the distant island of Singapore to commence his study at the River Valley High School. Having graduated from high school, he is intrigued by the profound knowledge of psychologia. He was thus summoned to the LEAP lab to become an apprentice and to undertake a study on infant linguistic study.


Previous Leap members