The English Department Welcomes Tuuli Morrill to the Linguistics Faculty

The English Department Welcomes Tuuli Morrill to the Linguistics Faculty

The English Department proudly introduces Tuuli Morrill as its newest full-time faculty member in Linguistics. Join us in welcoming her to Mason.


What is your research/area of interest?

My research focuses mainly on the role of prosody in speech perception. Basically, I’m interested in how linguistic rhythm helps language comprehension and also language learning. My dissertation, titled “Word Segmentation and Phonological Learning in Cross-Language Perception of Fluent Speech,” looked at the how native language prosodic (rhythmic) structure affects the way that adult listeners hear a second language and pick up words in that language. Recently, in my post doctoral position at Michigan State University, I’ve continued looking at the role of rhythm in language learning using an artificial language learning paradigm. The effects of phrasal structure, or the tonal and timing patterns in the language, appear to have a profound effect on the patterns people perceive and the words they learn. Along these lines, I am also interested in the relationship between language and music, since these are both domains in which pitch and timing patterns can play an important role, and may share certain cognitive processes.


Why are you interested in what you do?

Language is such an important feature of human communication and culture, and there are so many questions about how exactly it works. I grew up in a bilingual family, speaking Finnish and English, and I was always aware and interested in the differences between languages in terms of their sound and structure. I started studying linguistics as an undergrad and instantly felt that I had found the perfect field of study for my interests! The research that I do now has the potential to constantly evolve, and has implications for many fields (psychology, neuroscience, education, health), which is what makes it so interesting. Studying the way that humans perceive and learn language can contribute to our understanding of human cognition in general.


How did you spend your summer?

This summer, I continued my work as a post doc, wrapping up some projects and planning for others that I’m looking forward to working on at GMU. I also spent some time with my family in Maine, where I grew up. I was lucky to get some good weather for sailing and hiking trips!


What is your life like outside the classroom? Tell us a little bit about who you are.

One of my hobbies is playing the violin, something I have done since I was a child. I try to keep it up, although recently it’s been hard to find the time. In the past couple years, I have also gotten into running half marathons, which has been a fun way to spend time outdoors.  


What courses you are teaching this coming Fall?

This fall, I will be teaching English Phonetics and a seminar - Laboratory Approaches to Prosody.