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Haskins Laboratories

Haskins Laboratories
Haskins Laboratories
Haskins Laboratories
Founded 1935
Founder Caryl Haskins
Franklin S. Cooper
Key people
Kenneth Pugh, President
Douglas Whalen, VP
Vincent Gracco, VP
Joseph Cardone, CFO
Philip Rubin, Senior Advisor

Haskins Laboratories [1] is a private, independent, international, 501(c) non-profit corporation. It is a multidisciplinary community of researchers which conducts basic research on spoken and written language. Founded in 1935 and located in New Haven, Connecticut since 1970, It views speech and language as biological processes. The Laboratories has a long history of technological and theoretical innovation, from creating the rules for speech synthesis and the first working prototype of a reading machine for the blind to developing the landmark concept of phonemic awareness as the critical preparation for learning to read.


  • Research Tools and Facilities 1
  • History 2
    • 1930s 2.1
    • 1940s 2.2
    • 1950s 2.3
    • 1960s 2.4
    • 1970s 2.5
    • 1980s 2.6
    • 1990s 2.7
    • 2000s 2.8
    • 2010s 2.9
  • See also (people) 3
  • See also (topics) 4
  • References 5
  • Notes 6

Research Tools and Facilities

Haskins Laboratories is equipped, in-house, with a comprehensive suite of tools and capabilities to advance its mission of research into language and literacy. These include (as of 2014):

Additionally, Haskins has access to MRI scanners through agreements with the University of Connecticut/Storrs and the Yale School of Medicine.


Scores of researchers have contributed to scientific breakthroughs at Haskins Laboratories since its founding. All of them are indebted to the pioneering work and leadership of Caryl Parker Haskins [2], Franklin S. Cooper [3], Alvin Liberman [4], Seymour Hutner [5] and Luigi Provasoli [6]. This history focuses on the research program of the main division of Haskins Laboratories that, since the 1940s, has been most well known for its work in the areas of speech, language and reading.[1]


Caryl Haskins and Franklin S. Cooper established Haskins Laboratories in 1935. It was originally affiliated with Harvard University, MIT, and Union College in Schenectady, NY. Caryl Haskins conducted research in microbiology, radiation physics, and other fields in Cambridge, MA and Schenectady. In 1939 the Laboratories moved its center to New York City. Seymour Hutner joined the staff to set up a research program in microbiology, genetics, and nutrition. The descendant of this program [7] is now part of Pace University in New York.


The U. S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, under Vannevar Bush asked Haskins Laboratories to evaluate and develop technologies for assisting blinded World War II veterans. Experimental psychologist Alvin Liberman joined the Laboratories to assist in developing a "sound alphabet" to represent the letters in a text for use in a reading machine for the blind. Luigi Provasoli joined the Laboratories to set up a research program in marine biology. The program in marine biology moved to Yale University in 1970 and disbanded with Provasoli's retirement in 1978.


speech synthesis by the Pattern Playback [13].


Leigh Lisker and Arthur Abramson[15] looked for simplification at the level of articulatory action in the voicing of certain contrasting consonants. They showed that many acoustic properties of voicing contrasts arise from variations in voice onset time, the relative phasing of the onset of vocal cord vibration and the end of a consonant. Their work has been widely replicated and elaborated, here and abroad, over the following decades. Donald Shankweiler [16] and Michael Studdert-Kennedy [17] used a dichotic listening technique (presenting different nonsense syllables simultaneously to opposite ears) to demonstrate the dissociation of phonetic (speech) and auditory (nonspeech) perception by finding that phonetic structure devoid of meaning is an integral part of language, typically processed in the left cerebral hemisphere. Liberman, Cooper, Shankweiler, and Studdert-Kennedy summarized and interpreted fifteen years of research in "Perception of the Speech Code," still among the most cited papers in the speech literature. It set the agenda for many years of research at Haskins and elsewhere by describing speech as a code in which speakers overlap (or coarticulate) segments to form syllables. Researchers at Haskins connected their first computer to a speech synthesizer designed by the Laboratories' engineers. Ignatius Mattingly [18], with British collaborators, John N. Holmes [19] and J.N. Shearme [20], adapted the Pattern playback rules to write the first computer program for synthesizing continuous speech from a phonetically spelled input. A further step toward a reading machine for the blind combined Mattingly's program with an automatic look-up procedure for converting alphabetic text into strings of phonetic symbols.


In 1970 Haskins Laboratories moved to New Haven, Connecticut and entered into affiliation agreements with Yale University and the University of Connecticut. Isabelle Liberman, Donald Shankweiler, and Alvin Liberman teamed up with Ignatius Mattingly to study the relationship between speech perception and reading, a topic implicit in the Laboratories' research program since its inception. They developed the concept of phonemic awareness, the knowledge that would-be readers must be aware of the phonemic structure of their language in order to be able to read. Leonard Katz related the work to contemporary cognitive theory and provided expertise in experimental design and data analysis. Under the broad rubric of the "alphabetic principle," this is the core of the Laboratories' present program of reading pedagogy. Patrick Nye [21] joined the Laboratories to lead a team working on the reading machine for the blind. The project culminated when the addition of an optical character recognizer allowed investigators to assemble the first automatic text-to-speech reading machine. By the end of the decade this technology had advanced to the point where commercial concerns assumed the task of designing and manufacturing reading machines for the blind [22].

In 1973 Franklin S. Cooper was selected to form a panel of six experts[2] charged with investigating the famous 18-minute gap in the White House office tapes of President Richard Nixon related to the Watergate scandal [23]

Building on earlier work, Philip Rubin developed the sinewave synthesis program, which was then used by Robert Remez, Rubin, and colleagues to show that listeners can perceive continuous speech without traditional speech cues from a pattern of sinewaves that track the changing resonances of the vocal tract. This paved the way for a view of speech as a dynamic pattern of trajectories through articulatory-acoustic space. Philip Rubin and colleagues developed Paul Mermelstein's anatomically simplified vocal tract model [24], originally worked on at Bell Laboratories, into the first articulatory synthesizer [25] that can be controlled in a physically meaningful way and used for interactive experiments.


Studies of different Michael Turvey [27], Leonard Katz [28], Ram Frost [29], Laurie Feldman [30], and Shlomo Bentin [31], in a variety of languages. Cross-language work on reading, including investigations of the brain process involved, remains a large part of the Laboratories' program today.

Various researchers developed compatible theoretical accounts of speech production,[3] speech perception and phonological knowledge. Carol Fowler[32] proposed a direct realism theory of speech perception: listeners perceive gestures not by means of a specialized decoder, as in the motor theory, but because information in the acoustic signal specifies the gestures that form it. J. A. Scott Kelso and colleagues demonstrated functional synergies in speech gestures experimentally. Elliot Saltzman [33] developed a dynamical systems theory of synergetic action and implemented the theory as a working model of speech production. Linguists Catherine Browman[34] and Louis Goldstein [35] developed the theory of articulatory phonology [36], in which gestures are the basic units of both phonetic action and phonological knowledge. Articulatory phonology, the task dynamic model, and the articulatory synthesis model are combined into a gestural computational model of speech production. [37] Saltzman and Rubin started the IS group to explore cutting edge developments in science and technology and foster collaboration across institutions and disciplines. The group, not formally affiliated with Haskins Laboratories, continues to meet.


Katherine Safford Harris,[4] Frederica Bell-Berti [38] and colleagues studied the phasing and cohesion of articulatory speech gestures. Kenneth Pugh [39] was among the first scientists to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity associated with reading and reading disabilities. Pugh, Donald Shankweiler [40], Weija Ni [41], Einar Mencl [42], and colleagues developed novel applications of neuroimaging to measure brain activity associated with understanding sentences. Philip Rubin, Louis Goldstein and Mark Tiede [43] designed a radical revision of the articulatory synthesis model, known as CASY [44], the configurable articulatory synthesizer. This 3-dimensional model of the vocal tract permits researchers to replicate MRI images of actual speakers. Douglas Whalen [45], Goldstein, Rubin and colleagues extended this work to study the relation between speech production and perception. [46] Donald Shankweiler, Susan Brady [47] [48], Anne Fowler [49], and others explored whether weak memory and perception in poor readers are tied specifically to phonological deficits. Evidence rejected broader cognitive deficits underlying reading difficulties and raised questions about impaired phonological representations in disabled readers.


Anne Fowler [50] and New Haven. In 2008 Ken Pugh of Yale University was named President and Director of Research, succeeding Carol Fowler who remains at Haskins as a Senior Advisor. In 2009 Haskins released its new Strategic Plan [61], which features new Birth-to-Five and Bilingualism initiatives.


The Haskins Training Institute was established in 2011 to provide direct educational opportunities in Haskins Laboratories' core areas of research (language, speech perception, speech production, literacy). The Training Institute serves to communicate this knowledge to the public through accessible seminars, small conferences, and intern and training positions.

Capabilities in the eye movement labs is expanded to include 3 eye trackers, including one with the ability to capture synchronous gaze and EEG data, and another able to capture synchronous gaze and speech signals.

See also (people)

See also (topics)


  • Frederica Bell-Berti. Producing Speech: Contemporary Issues, for Katherine Safford Harris. Springer, 1995.
  • Gloria J. Borden and Katherine S. Harris. Speech Science Primer: Physiology, acoustics, and perception of speech. Second Edition. Williams & Williams, Baltimore, MD, 1984.
  • Alice B. Dadourian. A Bio-Biography of Caryl Parker Haskins. Yvonix, New Haven, Connecticut, 2000.
  • Haskins Laboratories. The Science of the Spoken and Written Word. Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, 2005.
  • James F. Kavanagh and Ignatius G. Mattingly (eds.), Language by Ear and by Eye: The Relationships between Speech and Reading. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA: 1972. (Paperback edition, 1974, ISBN 0-262-61015-9).
  • Alvin M. Liberman. Speech: a special code. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA: 1996.
  • A. M. Liberman, F. S. Cooper, D. S. Shankweiler, and M. Studdert-Kennedy. Perception of the speech code. Psychological Review, 74, 1967, 431-461.
  • A. M., Liberman, A. M., K. S. Harris, H. S. Hoffman & B. C. Griffith. The discrimination of speech sounds within and across phoneme boundaries. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54, 358 - 368, 1957.
  • Ignatius G. Mattingly & Michael Studdert-Kennedy (Eds.), Modularity and the Motor Theory of Speech Perception: Proceedings of a Conference to Honor Alvin M. Liberman. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum: 1991. (Paperback, ISBN 0-8058-0331-9)
  • Patrick W. Nye, Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, August 1, 1989 [62]
  • Malcolm Slaney. Pattern playback from 1950 to 1995. Proceedings of the 1995 IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Conference, October 22–25, 1995, Vancouver, Canada. Copyright 1995, IEEE. [63]


  1. ^ .The Science of the Spoken and Written WordHaskins Laboratories,
  2. ^ Time Magazine (1973). "The Secretary and the Tape Tangle." Time Magazine, Dec. 10, 1973.
  3. ^ Gloria J. Borden and Katherine S. Harris. Speech Science Primer: Physiology, acoustics, and perception of speech. Second Edition. Williams & Williams, Baltimore, MD, 1984
  4. ^ Frederica Bell-Berti. Producing Speech: Contemporary Issues, for Katherine Safford Harris. Springer, 1995.
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