Speech Acquisition and Perception

Education & Research experiences: 

Ph.D., 2016, Psychology - University of Padova 

M.Sc., 2013, Experimental Psychology & Cognitive Science (Summa cum Laude) - University of Padova 

Postdoctoral Trainee, 2016-2017 - University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)

Research Interests:

To what extent the processes serving language development are unique to language? I am interested in nature-nurture questions related to language acquisition. During my Ph.D studies, I have conducted research with animal models (i.e., domestic chicks) aimed at investigating statistical learning, a mechanism that also supports language acquisition in human infants. During my post-doctoral training in the US, I have conducted behavioral research with infants, exploring whether learning of grammatical structures is specific to language.

Here at the SAP Group, which I joined in October 2017, I am currently investigating the acquisition of syntactical and syllabic structures, categorization processes, and infants’ preferences for speech.


Sebastian-Galles N. Santolin C. (2020). Bilingual Acquisition: The Early Steps. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology.

Santolin C., Garcia-Castro G., Zettersten M., Sebastian-Galles N. & Saffran J. (2020). Experience with research paradigms relates to infants’ direction of preference. Infancy.

Santolin C., Rosa-Salva O., Lemaire S. B., Regolin L. & Vallortigara G. (2020). Statistical learning in domestic chicks is modulated by strain and sex. Scientific Report.

Santolin C., Russo S., Calignano G., Saffran J. & Valenza E. (2019). The role of prosody in infants’ preference for speech: a comparison between speech and birdsong. Infancy.

Santolin C. & Saffran, J. (2019). Non-linguistic grammar learning by 12-month-old infants: Evidence for constraints on learning. Journal of Cognition and Development.

Rosa-Salva O., Fiser J., Versace E., Dolci C., Chehaimi S., Santolin C. & Vallortigara G. (2018). Spontaneous learning of visual structures in domestic chicks. Animals: MDPI, 8(8):135. 

Santolin C. & Saffran, J. (2018). Constraints on statistical learning across species. Trends in Cognitive Science.

Santolin C., Rosa-Salva O., Vallortigara G. & Regolin L. (2016). Unsupervised
statistical learning in newly-hatched chicks. Current Biology, 26(23), R1218-R1220.

Santolin C., Rosa-Salva O., Regolin L. & Vallortigara G. (2016). Generalization of visual regularities in newly-hatched chicks (Gallus gallus). Animal Cognition, 19(5), 1007-1017.

Santolin C., Rosa-Salva O., Vallortigara G. & Regolin L. (2015). Unsupervised visual statistical learning in the newborn chick (Gallus gallus). Perception, 44, 13-13.


Recent conference presentations:

Santolin C., Saffran J. & Sebastian-Galles N. Non-linguistic artificial grammar learning in 12-month-old infants: a cross-lab replication study. Poster presented at 4th Workshop on Infant Language Development (WILD). Potsdam, Germany. June 13-15 2019.

Santolin C. & Saffran J. Beginning of Grammar: Domain-generality of Phrase Structure Learning in Infancy. Poster presented at 21st Biennal International Conference of Infant Studies (ICIS). Philadelphia, USA. June 30-July 3 2018. 

Jenny Saffran (Waisman Center & U. of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Giorgio Vallortigara (CiMEC, University of Trento)
Eloisa Valenza & Lucia Regolin (University of Padova) 


[email protected]

Twitter: @chiara_santolin