Lab Members


Dr. Anne-Michelle Tessier

Lab Director

Anne-Michelle (Ph.D. 2007, UMass Amherst) is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at UBC. She is a phonologist specializing in acquisition, constraint-based grammars, learning algorithms, and child L1 and L2 production.  She previously held faculty and researcher appointments at the University of Alberta, SFU and the Center for Human Growth and Development (UMichigan). In 2015, she published a textbook “Phonological Acquisition: Child Language and Constraint-Based Grammar” (Palgrave Macmillan). Her current and recent Insight Grants have studied L2 English production and perception among adults and children, especially among young and recently-arrived immigrants, as well as the acquisition of complex, interacting phonological patterns including Canadian Raising (in collaboration with Ashley Farris-Trimble).

Photo Credit: J. Craft


Howard (Basic Obedience, 2019), has been interested in language acquisition as long as he can remember, and is particularly focused on inter-species communicative development. His research emphasizes the role of IDS and extreme pitch excursions as a function of speaker, context and treat value, and the importance of head tilt, trying not to jump, and extreme tail wagging in discourse. He is also a very good boy.


Bagel (Puppy Training Diploma, 2022) has joined our lab from a Washington state group, where she focused primarily on licking things and romping. Her current interests include gently chewing socks and throwing herself at senior canine lab member Howard, but she is beginning to focus more on issues of language comprehension, lexical development, as well as loving blueberries. She is a very good girl. 

Graduate Researchers

Alex Ayala

Graduate student

Alex is PhD Student of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia. She studies morphophonology and mathematical models of learnability. She is curious about how we form words and the ways in which we use abstract categories to learn that words are related through form-meaning mappings. Specifically, her projects include relational puzzles like paradigm gaps, and categorisation puzzles like sub-morphemic expressions of morphosyntactic features. She enjoys photography, playing video games, and pretending that she is being chased by zombies when she runs.

Kaili Vesik

Graduate student

Kaili is a PhD candidate in the Linguistics Department at UBC. Her linguistic interests involve phonology, vowel harmony, music, Estonian, learning algorithms, and building computational tools to support theoretical research. Her current research focuses on algorithmic learning of phonology in Balto-Finnic languages. Outside of academia, you’ll most likely find Kaili singing, sewing, hiking, running, or skiing.

Sijia Zhang

Graduate Student

Sijia is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at UBC. Her research focuses on second language (L2) acquisition of phonology and formal modeling of L2 phonology. Her current project looks into how L1 Mandarin-speaking adults with different amounts of L2 English experiences perceive English low-vowel + nasal sequences. She is also interested in the fields of prosody and speech perception through experimental approaches and fieldwork, including Mandarin speech segmentation and tone sandhi, as well as Ktunaxa focus prosody. Outside of linguistics, you may find her running, playing basketball, or playing the piano.

Zara Khalaji Pirbaluti

Graduate Student

Zara is an MA student of Linguistics at UBC. She is mainly interested in exploring the experimental and formal sides of linguistics in the context of acquisition and learning. Her research focuses on learnability in phonology and investigating whether speakers exhibit biases in learning which go against the ambient language and their linguistic experience. In her free time, she likes to learn languages, musical theory, coding, and statistics in addition to getting lost in random rabbit holes in the depths of Wikipedia.

Undergraduate Researchers

Edward Ho Hon Leung

Edward is a fifth-year BA student at the University of British Columbia. He is double majoring in Speech Sciences and Psychology. His current research focuses on the perception of child-directed speech, particularly in tonal languages. He is running a pilot study to identify what features could be perceived from Cantonese child-directed speech and whether those are helpful for learning. He is also interested in exploring learning theories and language development through experimental approaches. Outside of Linguistics and Psychology, he enjoys listening to music and playing basketball.

Renée Wong

Renée is a fourth year undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Speech Sciences. She hopes to pursue a M.Sc. degree in speech-language pathology in the upcoming school year. Her linguistic interests include child language acquisition concerning phonetics and phonology. She is currently involved with a research study focusing on child-directed speech in Cantonese supervised by Anne-Michelle. Outside of academia, Renée enjoys cooking all sorts of foods and baking desserts.

Danielle Lefebvre

Danielle is a fourth year undergraduate student at UBC with a major in Speech Sciences and a minor in Psychology. Her linguistic interests include the influence of multilingualism on child language acquisition. She is currently involved in a project on the acquisition of French Liaison. Outside of linguistics, Danielle enjoys testing chocolate chip cookie recipes and pretending she will eventually read all the books on her bookshelf.

Leah Brown

Leah is a former translator who has returned to school to study linguistics, with the hopes of eventually attending the speech-language pathology program. She is currently involved in a project focusing on the acquisition of French Liaison. In her spare time, you can find Leah walking along the seawall, browsing bookshops, and exploring the Vancouver craft beer scene.

Christine Liu

Christine is currently a third year undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Speech Sciences and minoring in Psychology. She is planning to pursue her M.Sc. degree in speech-language pathology after she graduates. Her linguistic interest is in child language acquisition and her language background includes English, Cantonese, and some French. She’s currently involved with a research study focusing on child-directed speech in Cantonese. Outside of Linguistics and Psychology, Christine enjoys playing tennis and hiking outdoors.