Kate Bunton, Ph.D.


Email: bunton@email.arizona.edu

Click here for CV

My research focuses on improving basic knowledge about normal speech production as well speech development and disordered speech production.  Knowledge in these areas will influence the development of clinical treatment programs for individuals with reduced speech intelligibility.  My program of research uses several different methodologies to examine speech production.  These include audio data from acoustic recordings, airflow data, and movement data using a real-time motion capture system.  Computational modeling is also used to examine the relation between speech production, speech acoustics, and speech perception. 

Arizona Child Acoustic Database

The primary project currently underway involves studying speech development in children ages 2-6 years.  This is a collaborative project with Dr. Brad Story.  Although much is known about the acoustic characteristics of children’s speech, there is comparatively little known about the mechanisms available to a child for producing sounds and how those mechanisms may differ from those of an adult system. We have designed a protocol that includes both longitudinal and cross-sectional data collection from children ages 2-6 years using a noninvasive 3D motion capture system (NDI Wave).  This system allows for collection of movement data from the tongue, lip, and jaw during speech production in addition to audio data. These data will be used to further understand speech production in children and also to inform and verify computational modeling efforts.

Speech Intelligibility

A second research project is aimed at building a comprehensive account of the acoustic correlates of speech intelligibility.  In short, the research goal is to identify those characteristics of the acoustic (speech) signal that pose the most difficulties for listeners in determining a speaker’s intended message.

Development of Velopharyngeal Function in Infants

A third project underway in my laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Jenny Hoit, examines the time course for development of velopharyngeal function in children.  We are currently collecting longitudinal data on infants beginning at four months of age and continuing until approximately two years of age using a noninvasive aerodynamic (airflow) approach. This line of research will facilitate a better understanding of speech production in children and also may influence clinical evaluation and management of speech sound disorders in children. This dataset is also being used to identify reliable to identify reliable acoustic and perceptual correlates of velopharyngeal status and has implications for development of clinical tools that could be used to identify the presence of velopharyngeal difficulties in infants and young children.