Suzanne van der Feest

Suzanne van der Feest faculty photo

Research Interests

  • Language development, phonology, phonetics, bilingualism, dialectal variation


  • Ph.D. in Linguistics from Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

As a developmental linguist, Suzanne van der Feest traces the first steps children take on the road to becoming native speakers and listeners. How do children identify the relevant sounds they hear in their daily environment? How do they use that knowledge to build a phonological lexicon (a “mental dictionary” of what words should sound like) and produce spoken words? Van der Feest’s research — which has been published in leading journals such as PhonologyJournal of PhoneticsInfancy, and Language Learning and Development — also explores speech perception and word recognition in adults and listeners with diverse language and dialectal backgrounds. Her experience working with linguists, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists has given her a full appreciation for all unsolved aspects of the complex language acquisition and development puzzle.
Since 2018, Van der Feest has served as the director of The Graduate Center’s Developmental Speech Perception Lab, which investigates early speech perception, production, and word recognition. The lab works with children as well as adults to complete a varied range of research projects — including the influence of speaking style adaptations and semantic context on word recognition in different populations, the perception of voicing contrasts by different groups of Korean-English bilingual listeners, and the link between children’s earliest productions of sounds and words.
Van der Feest moved to the United States from the Netherlands in 2006 to work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and later joined the University of Texas at Austin as a research associate and lecturer. From 2014 to 2018, Van der Feest managed the Child Language Lab Austin in UT Austin’s linguistics department, where she is currently affiliated as a visiting researcher.

Selected Publications

  • Van der Feest, S.V.H., Blanco, C.P., & R. (2019) ‘Influence of Speaking Style Adaptations and Semantic Context on Time Course of Word Recognition in Quiet and Noise’. Journal of Phonetics, 73, 158-177.
  • Swingley, D. & Van der Feest, S.V.H. (2019) A Cross-Linguistic Examination of Toddlers’ Interpretation of Vowel Duration. Infancy, 1-18.
  • Davis, B.L., Van der Feest, S.V.H, & Yi, H. (2018). Speech sound characteristics of early words: influence of phonological factors across vocabulary development. Journal of Child Language, 45(3), 673-702.
  • Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Johnson, E.K. (2016). Input-Driven Differences in Toddler’s Perception of a Disappearing Phonological Contrast. Language Acquisition, 23(2), 89-111 (Awarded best paper of the year 2016 in Language Acquisition).
  • Van der Feest, S.V.H., Fikkert, P. & Davis, B.L. (2016). Cross-Linguistic Differences in the Perception of Dorsal and Coronal CV-Combinations: Evidence from English and Dutch. In: Proceedings of the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA. Volume 2, 417-428.
  • Davis, B.L., Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Yi. H. (2016). Phonological versus Lexical factors in Children’s Productions at the Onset of Word Us. In: Proceedings Supplement of the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development
  • Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Fikkert, P. (2015). ‘Building Phonological Lexical Representations.’ Phonology, 32(2), 207-239.
  • Altvater-Mackensen, N., Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Fikkert, P. (2014). ‘Asymmetries in Early Word Recognition: The Case of Stops and Fricatives.’ Language Learning and Development, 10(2), 149-178.DOI: 10.1080/15475441.2013.808954.
  • Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Swingley, D. (2011). ‘Dutch and English listeners’ perception of vowel duration.’ Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 129, EL57-63.

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • International Congress of Infant Studies
  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • Acoustical Society of America
  • Linguistics Society of America
  • University of Pennsylvania Linguistics Colloquium
  • Algemene Vereniging voor Taalwetenschap (Dutch Society of Linguistics)
  • Nederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen (Dutch Phonetics Society)

Awards [2015-present]

  • Best paper award from the journal Language Acquisition for: Van der Feest, S.V.H. & Johnson, E.K. (2016). “Input-Driven Differences in Toddler's Perception of a Disappearing Phonological Contrast” (2016)