Aoju Chen is full professor in language development at Utrecht University. Her research in concerned with both fundamental research questions on prosody and the prosody-pragmatics interface and the issues of how children acquire the prosodic system of their native language, how adults learn the prosodic system of a second language, and how acquisition of such linguistic abilities in a first or second language interacts with the learner’s development into a socially functional individual in a familiar or new culture.
As a principle investigator (PI) in the interdisciplinary research pillar Belonging within the university’s strategic theme Dynamics of Youth, Aoju Chen investigates how development of speech entrainment at multiple linguistic levels in child-parent interactions influences the development of sense of belonging in children and adolescents, which has strong effects on their emotional and mental well-being and cognitive functioning.
In various national and international collaborative projects, Aoju Chen has investigated prosodic development in infancy, comprehension and processing of prosodic information in a second language, Prosodic expression of sarcasm in a first and second language, etc. Recently, she and her collaborators have developed the first open-access tool for automatical analysis of Dutch prosody.
In the NWO-funded VIDI project “Get the focus right: a cross-linguistic study on prosodic encoding of focus in children” (2011-2016), Aoju Chen and her team have studied the developmental path to adult-like competence in using prosody to structure information across languages, how children acquiring the same language differ from each other in this process, and what linguistic and non-linguistic factors can account for the individual differences.