Dr. K.E. (Karin) Wanrooij

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences – Education and Child Studies
Educational Studies
Leiden University

Visiting address:
Pieter de la Court building | 4th floor
Wassenaarseweg 52 | 2333 AK Leiden | The Netherlands


Research interests

Speech and language acquisition
Speech perception and production
Neurobiology of speech and language processing and acquisition
Cognitive development
Neurolinguistic research techniques
Linguistics and cognitive neuroscience in general

Short CV

Karin Wanrooij studied Japanese at Leiden University (MA, cum laude) and Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam (MA, cum laude). Her PhD research (supervisors: prof. dr. Paul Boersma and dr. Titia van Zuijen) examined how infants learn to perceive the vowels of their mother tongues and how adults learn to perceive the vowels of a new language. The thesis yielded a nomination for the AVT/Anéla Dissertation Prize.

Aside from doing research, Karin has taught several courses at different universities, in the areas of phonetics, language acquisition, cognitive development and statistics.

Karin has been a postdoctoral researcher at the department of Educational Sciences of Leiden University since October 2016.

Current research

Karin Wanrooij’s current project “The effect of reduced pronunciations on understanding a second language” is financed by the NWO division “the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research” (NRO).

PhD project

The PhD project (“Distributional learning of vowel categories in infants and adults”) examined to what extent mere exposure to ambient speech (“distributional learning”) contributes to learning the vowels of a language, both in infancy, when the mother tongue must be acquired, and in adulthood, when new languages can be learned. The results are based on neurophysiological and behavioural experiments, and on an extensive literature review of possible neural correlates. The main conclusions are that (1) distributional learning can contribute to the acquisition of native vowel categories in infancy, (2) the capacity for distributional learning is larger in infancy than in adulthood, and (3) observed effects of distributional training in the lab may not be based on the number of peaks in the training distributions. The thesis can be downloaded here.

This research was part of Paul Boersma’s NWO-funded Vici-project “Emergent Categories and Connections“. It was also part of the ‘Hoe Leren Baby’s ( How Do Babies Learn ) project’ at the University of Amsterdam. In this project the departments of Developmental Psychology and Phonetic Sciences cooperate to study the cognitive and linguistic development of babies.


  • Dissertation highlighted online on the website of Van Dale
    (column Sterre Leufkens; in Dutch; March 18, 2016)
  • Dissertation highlighted in Spui (nr. 42 page 17; in Dutch; June 2015)
  • Dissertation highlighted in the Noordhollands Dagblad (page 16; in Dutch; May 1, 2015)
  • Dissertation highlighted in the blog “De Taalpassie van Milfje” (in Dutch; April 29, 2015)
  • Dissertation highlighted in Folia (nr. 27 page 41; in Dutch;  April 22, 2015)
  • Dissertation highlighted in UvA News (in Dutch; April 9, 2015).
  • Interview in Newsletter 169 of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam (final page of the newsletter; in Dutch).
  • Interview in Radio Swammerdam (in Dutch; June 22, 2014)