Jill Thorson

Phone: (603) 862-5195
Office: Communication Sciences & Disorders, Hewitt Hall, Durham, NH 03824
Jill C. Thorson, Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

How do children acquire language? My research focuses on the perception and production of prosody (i.e., the melody and rhythm of speech) at different stages in development, and how these early language processes impact successful communication. The goal of my work is to provide a better understanding of how the complex interaction between prosody and meaning develops over infancy and early childhood in both typical and atypical developing populations. Most recently, I have explored how prosody impacts early word learning as well as how the acoustic correlates of prosody are realized in the speech of minimally verbal school-aged children with autism. Additionally, I am interested in the role of prosody in the diagnosis and treatment of motor speech disorders. These lines of research will not only inform how we classify language and learning difficulties across disorders but also offer insight into intervention, treatment, and earlier diagnosis.


  • Ph.D., Brown University
  • M.A., University of Rochester
  • M.S., Brown University
  • B.A., University of Rochester

Research Interests

  • Acoustics
  • Autism
  • Communicative Disorders, Speech
  • Language Acquisition and Development

Courses Taught

  • COMM 522: Language Acquisition
  • COMM 524: Clinical Phonetics
  • COMM 842: Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • COMM 916: Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • INCO 590: Student Research Experience
  • INCO 790: Advanced Research Experience

Selected Publications

Thorson, J. C., Franklin, L. R., & Morgan, J. L. (n.d.). Role of Pitch in Toddler Looking to <i>New</i> and <i>Given</i> Referents in American English. Language Learning and Development, 1-22. doi:10.1080/15475441.2022.2149400

Thorson, J. C., & Morgan, J. L. (2021). Prosodic realizations of new, given, and corrective referents in the spontaneous speech of toddlers. JOURNAL OF CHILD LANGUAGE, 48(3), 541-568. doi:10.1017/S0305000920000434

Brumberg, J., Thorson, J. C., & Patel, R. (2018). The Prosodic Marionette: a method to visualize speech prosody and assess perceptual and expressive prosodic abilities. Speech Communication, 104, 95-105. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2018.09.009

Thorson, J. C. (2018). The role of prosody in early word learning: Behavioral evidence. In P. Prieto, & N. Esteve-Gibert (Eds.), The Development of Prosody in First Language Acquisition (Vol. 23, 1 ed., pp. 60-77). John Benjamins.

Thorson, J. C., Usher, N., Patel, R., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2015, November 13). Acoustic analysis of prosody in spontaneous productions of minimally verbal children and adolescents with autism. In J. Scott, & D. Waughtal (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston, Massachusetts.

Thorson, J., Meyer, S., Plesa-Skwerer, D., Patel, R., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2016). Assessing prosody in minimally to nonverbal children with autism. In Speech prosody Vol. 2016 (pp. 1206-1210). doi:10.21437/speechprosody.2016-248

Thorson, J. C., & Morgan, J. L. (2015). Acoustic correlates to information structure in child and adult speech. In E. Grillo, & K. Jepson (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development Vol. 2 (pp. 411-423). Boston, Massachusetts: Cascadilla Press.

Thorson, J., Borras-Comes, J., Crespo-Sendra, V., del Mar Vanrell, M., & Prieto, P. (2015). The acquisition of melodic form and meaning in yes-no interrogatives by Catalan and Spanish speaking children. Probus, 27(1), 73-99. doi:10.1515/probus-2013-0019

Thorson, J. C., & Morgan, J. L. (2013, November 1). Directing toddler attention: Intonation contours and information structure. In W. Orman, & M. J. Valleau (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston, Massachusetts.

Prieto, P., Estrella, A., Thorson, J., & Vanrell, M. D. M. (2012). Is prosodic development correlated with grammatical and lexical development? Evidence from emerging intonation in Catalan and Spanish.. J Child Lang, 39(2), 221-257. doi:10.1017/S030500091100002X

Most Cited Publications