BA (Hons) (UNE); PhD (Monash); FASSA


Denis Burnham has championed cross-disciplinary and cross-language research and pioneered, especially in Australia, infant speech perception, cross-language speech perception, psycholinguistics of lexical tone, auditory-visual speech, human-machine speech perception and production, and large-scale corpus development. He has collaborations internationally (Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, UK, Sweden, Denmark, France), and across disciplines (linguists, experimental phoneticians, speech scientists, engineers, computer scientists, roboticists, music psychologists).

In lexical tone perception he was one of the first to examine perceptual development of tone, pitch-accent and prosody and has unearthed perceptual attunement for tones in infancy (Mattock & Burnham, 2006; Mattock, Molnar, Polka & Burnham, 2008); determinants of children’s tone perception (Burnham & Francis, 1997; Burnham, 2000; Burnham, Kim, Davis, Ciocca, Schoknecht & Luksaneeyanawin, 2011); and visual information for tone (Burnham, Ciocca & Stokes, 2001). In cross-language speech perception his use of non-native speech samples across languages has demonstrated the McGurk effect in infancy (Burnham & Dodd, 2004) and a developmental locus (6 - 8 years) for reading-related changes in auditory-visual speech perception in English but not Japanese (Sekiyama & Burnham, 2008; Erdener & Burnham, 2013); established, using native and non-native speech contrasts, that beyond the 6 to 12 months perceptual attunement period in infancy, a second period of perceptual attunement once reading begins (Burnham, 1986; Burnham et al., 1991); and established a predictive relationship between strength of perceptual attunement in school-aged children and reading ability (Burnham, 2003).In corpus studies, he led the AusTalk project resulting in ~3000 hours of structured auditory-visual speech from ~1000 adult Australian English speakers, and in the Alveo project he led and established a repository and virtual laboratory for storing and analysing speech, music, and text. He has shown that infant-directed speech differs in its didactic quality from pet-directed speech (Burnham, Kitamura & Vollmer-Conna, 2002); that foreigner- and computer-directed speech share this didactic quality (Uther, Knoll & Burnham, 2007; Burnham, Joeffry & Rice, 2010); that mothers not use this didactic quality when talking to infants at-risk of dyslexia (Kalashnikova, Goswami & Burnham, 2018); and that infant-directed speech has its phylogenetic origin in caregivers using articulations that make them sound less threatening (Kalashnikova, Carignan & Burnham, 2017).

As Foundation Director (1999-2014) he grew MARCS Institute from 5 to 150 researchers, first in speech and music sciences and later in in human-machine interaction, and biomedical and neuromorphic engineering. He engineered the appointment of notable high-level academics to MARCS, and won funding for several large interdisciplinary research projects.

Burnham has served on Technical, Scientific and Organising Committees for over 30 mostly international conferences. In 2008 he was the General Chair of the 1200-delagate Interspeech conference in Brisbane. Burnham has played leading roles in organisations with speech science and interdisciplinary emphasis: in 1999 with Benoit and Vatikiotis-Bateson he formed the Auditory-VIsual Speech Association (AVISA); and was the long serving President (2002-2016) of the Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association (ASSTA). Most recently, he set up the Asia-Pacific BabyLab Constellation, which had its inaugural conference in Singapore in October, 2018.

Professor, Foundation Director, MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University, 1999-

Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor: UNSW 1981-1999

Lecturer A: Monash 1979-80

University Medal, 1974

Fellow, International Speech Communication Association

Fellow, The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

  1. Burnham, D., Singh, L., Mattock, K., Woo, P. J., & Kalashnikova, M. (2018). Constraints on tone sensitivity in novel word learning by monolingual and bilingual Infants: Tone properties are more influential than tone familiarity. Frontiers in Psychology, 04 Jan 2018; doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02190
  2. Burnham, D., & Dodd, B. (2018). Language-general auditory-visual speech perception: Thai-English and Japanese-English McGurk effects. Multisensory Research, 31, 79-110. doi:10.1163/22134808-00002590
  3. Kalashnikova, M., Goswami, U., & Burnham, D. (2018). Mothers speak differently to infants at-risk for dyslexia. Developmental Science, 1-15, doi: 10.1111/desc.12487
  4. Kalashnikova, M., Carignan. C., Burnham, D. (2017) The origins of babytalk: smiling, teaching or social convergence? Royal Society Open Science, 4: 170306.
  5. Burnham, D., Kasisopa, B., Reid, A., Luksaneeyanawin, S., Lacerda, F., Attina, V., Xu Rattanasone, N., Schwarz, I-C., & Webster, D. (2014). Universality and language-specific experience in the perception of lexical tone and pitch. Applied Psycholinguistics, 77, 571-591. doi: 10.1017/S0142716414000496