In the last three years, two main lines of research have been developed: the study of frequency patterns in the phonology and phonetics of the language, and the study of the production and perception of prosody (prosodic phrasing, intonation, and rhythm).
Knowledge of frequency patterns has been shown to be crucial to the characterization of language usage, the establishing of lexical representations, or the emergence and development of grammar. Available frequency data for phonological units and patterns in Portuguese was scarce, non-replicable and corpus dependent. The line of research initiated in 2007 aimed at providing large-scale frequency information for phonological units and patterns from the feature to the prosodic word level, together with tools and databases, that allowed a description of Portuguese from the frequency perspective and enabled to test hypothesis about frequency effects in adult and child grammar, as well as language processing.
European Portuguese is one of the languages which is particularly interesting to the study of prosody and of the perception and production of prosodic properties. This is due to the fact that (i) European Portuguese is different from other Romance languages in terms of the properties it displays in various prosodic levels, such as the Prosodic Word or the Phonological Phrase, (ii) its intonation stands out from the rest of the Romance languages due to the scarcity of pitch accents and its overall prosodic phrasing, and (iii) it has a rare combination of syllabic and accentual rhythmic properties, within Romance. The presence of both Romance and Germanic-like properties in the prosody of the language raises challenging questions for language acquisition (under the prosodic bootstrapping hypothesis) and for language typology. The research developed at LabFon aims at tackling some of these questions in the broader context of cross-linguistic research, focusing on prosodic variation, the acquisition of prosody and the role of prosody in language development and language processing. To this end, the group set up in 2010 the Lisbon Baby Lab.