My name is Axel G. Ekström. I'm a doctoral student with the division of Speech, Music & Hearing, working with the national language research infrastructure Språkbanken Tal. I'm a phonetician and cognitive scientist and my research interests are principles and phenomena of speech and vocal communication from comparative and evolutionary perspectives. From this lense, I research the evolution, development, and maintenance of speech and speech-centric behavior. This work borders multiple disciplines, including cognitive science, phonetics, and biology.
As of 2022, I am also affiliated with the Laboratory of Language Evolution, Institute of Biology at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
I've previously worked with the Lund University Department of Psychology neuropsychology division, on the cognitive neuroscience of memory. In my work I have employed a variety of research methodologies, such as eye tracking and electroencephalography. I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology (2019) from Uppsala University, and a Master's degree in Cognitive science (2021) from Lund University.
Descriptions of my work
My current projects naturally split off into three distinct subareas.
Evolutionary phonetics.Part of my work involves tracing the evolution and natural history of the human articulatory complex. Intruigingly, there are various clear distinctions between the human face, and the faces of nonhuman animals - even our closest living ancestors, the great apes. I research anthropological and archaeological findings to determine a timeline for when our unique properties first emerged. I'm currently engaged with reviewing literature on Neanderthals' (Homo neanderthalensis) potential speech capacities.
Comparative phonetics.Despite obvious differences, the faces of nonhuman great apes exhibit clear homologies with those of humans. Our taxonomic superfamily,Homioidea, are - for example - unique in possessing large, fleshy protruding lips, which we readily use for vocal communication. A second research program, which I've termed comparative phonetics (echoing comparative cognition - research on psychological traits across humans and nonhuman animals), is aimed at utilizing these commonalities to determine how nonhuman apes articulate sounds. My research involves comparative work on chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), orangutans (Pongo abelii) and Western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). Click here to see an example publication.
Cognitive and psychological bases of speech mapping.The final subsection of my work involves the research question of how human infants learn to reliable reproduce the sounds of their native language. I'm currently exploring how such learning can be simulated via reference to exemplar theory, informed by neuroscience and neuropsychology. Click here to see an example publication.
For potential master's students
I'm available for supervision on topics involving speech biology, and human perception (including hearing, eye movements, pupillometry). Potential master's students are welcome to approach me with project ideas of their own.