FASS News, Faculty, Research, Linguistics

Face-mask use and language development: Reasons to worry?

February 24, 2021

Dr. Henny Yeung, an assistant professor from SFU's department of Linguistics has co-authored a piece in the Globe and Mail and the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) investigating how mask-wearing influences children's speech and language development.  

From The Globe and Mail and Royal Society of Canada:

Facemasks are an essential public health tool against COVID-19, and—until we know more about both vaccine distribution and efficacy over time—masks are here to stay. Although essential for infant- and child-caregivers in hospitals, in schools, and in other public spaces, many have asked how degraded auditory speech and the accompanying loss of visible facial cues from wearing masks could influence speech and language development. Indeed, the muffling of speech that occurs from wearing a mask (or two, in the case of double-masking), creates exactly the conditions where visible speech would be incredibly helpful – particularly if there is also background noise such as in a busy classroom or daycare. Some researchers have advocated the use of clear masks, but little research has been done on whether – and what kinds of – clear masks help, with some research suggesting clear masks could distort visible speech....

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