Meet the team

Current Lab Members

Dr Cat Davies

My research looks at children’s pragmatic abilities, i.e. how children understand meaning beyond vocabulary and grammar. I investigate how children make choices about how to refer to objects, for example, do they say the spotty dog, the dog, or he to introduce a character in a story? Why does this differ from what adults do? Do they first look at all objects in a scene before describing a specific object, or do they disregard them? How do they work out how much detail to provide in their referring expressions?

One of my current projects focuses on how children understand and process adjectives – a common but challenging category of words. I’m also investigating children’s inferencing ability and whether it can be improved by increased exposure to inferential talk during shared bookreading.

Professor Cecile De Cat

Photo of Professor Cecile De Cat

I study language development in monolingual and bilingual children, and seek to understand how it interacts with their cognitive development. Some of the questions I seek to address include:

  • From what age do children master the linguistic rules underlying the exchange of information? How does their cognitive development interact with their linguistic development in that respect?
  • How does the amount of bilingual experience of a child affect their proficiency in the language of schooling?
  • How do bilingual experience and socio-economic factors affect children’s cognitive development

Dr Hannah Nash

Photo of Dr Hannah Nash

I am a developmental psychologist interested in the factors that affect how children learn to read, these include spoken language skills, working memory, sleep and whether a child has a neurodevelopmental disorder, such as a specific language impairment, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.  My current research includes a project investigating the impact of school closures on pupils who are at the important transition point between reception and Year 1 (Impact of Covid on Key Learning and Education; ICKLE).



Dr Valentina Brunetto

I study the interaction between syntactic structures and interpretation through the lens of child language development. I am particularly interested in how children comprehend complex syntactic structures in the preschool years: how do their linguistic representations change over time? What patterns in children’s syntactic development are universal, and what varies according to the properties of their first language? My current research focuses on how children acquiring different languages (for example English and Romance languages) interpret pronominal forms in complex syntactic structures and in special pragmatic contexts.


Dr Cecilia Zuniga-Montanez

I am currently a postdoctoral research assistant working with Dr Cat Davies on the impact phase of the project Children Learning Adjectives. Previously, I completed my PhD at the University of Birmingham, where I investigated language development and vocabulary learning in typically developing infants and children with language delays. I investigated how typically developing infants, late talkers and children born preterm learn words and the word learning biases they use. My research also included two vocabulary interventions, one for typically developing infants and one for late talkers, aimed at boosting vocabulary learning.


Dr Drasko Kascelan

Photo of Dr Drasko Kascelan

I am a linguist currently working as a post-doctoral research assistant on the Q-BEx project. My previous research focused on child bilingualism, cognition (executive functions and the Theory of Mind), figurative language (idioms and metaphors), autistic-like traits, and autism spectrum disorders. My other areas of interest include code-switching, pragmatic language development, language processing, and language impairment.

Dr Amy Atkinson

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow investigating how children with poor working memory can be better supported in the classroom. My previous work has primarily investigated how adults and children can optimise their performance on working memory tasks by directing their attention to particularly valuable information. I have also been involved in research investigating teachers understanding of working memory, and the extent to which school readiness predicts later academic achievement and special educational needs status in children.


Dr Lydia Gunning

I am a research fellow currently working on a project with Professor Cecile De Cat to assess the core language skills of pre-adolescents in the Born-in-Bradford cohort. My previous research has focused on bilingualism, ambiguity, figurative language, and the impact of socio-economic status. My other interests include language impairments and how children’s linguistic experience can impact their cognitive development and academic attainment.



Davut Aslan

Photo of Davut Aslan

I graduated with a BA from Gazi University (Ankara, Turkey) in Special Education in 2015, passing my Masters degree in the same field in 2018.  I am currently a PhD researcher in School of Education, investigating the effectiveness of a dialogic reading intervention on the language and early literacy development of children in Turkey. My supervisors are Dr Paula Clarke (Education), Dr Hannah Nash (Psychology) and Dr Cat Davies (Linguistics). My PhD research investigates the impact of a parent-delivered dialogic reading program targeting phonological awareness, vocabulary knowledge, letter knowledge, print awareness, listening comprehension, and reading attitudes in Turkish preschool children whose language development may be at risk due to their socioeconomic background.

Anna Hamilton

I am a PhD researcher in the School of Psychology looking at sleep and its impact on the daytime functioning, academic attainment, cognitive development and well-being in children with ADHD. My project is supervised by Dr Hannah Nash and Dr Ian Kellar from the University of Leeds and Professor Heather Elphick from The Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Former and affiliated lab members

Photo of Dr Jamie Lingwood

Dr Jamie Lingwood

Jamie is a researcher interested in how the quality of the input that children experience relates to how they learn language. His research is broadly focused on how we can design, implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions to foster children’s language development. He works with caregivers and children from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 2018 Jamie has been working on an ESRC project with Dr Cat Davies in which they investigated how children experience, understand, and use adjectives. Using eyetracking experiments, corpus analyses, and a randomised controlled trial, the project focused how children’s socioeconomic background might affect their descriptive language abilities.


Photo of Bissera Ivanova

Bissera Ivanova

Bissera finished her BA in Linguistics and Phonetics at Leeds in 2013 with a theoretical dissertation discussing metaphor processing, then went on to do an MSc in Cognitive and Decision Sciences at UCL. Her research interests are in language processing and acquisition, especially in the wider context of cognitive and emotional processing and development. Bissera worked with Cat Davies and Jamie Lingwood on children’s processing of adjectives in 2019/20.



Photo of Annika van Wijk

Annika van Wijk

Annika spent Spring 2019 at the LCDU on an internship during her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Groningen. She worked with Cat Davies and Jamie Lingwood on children’s processing of adjectives in 2019.

Photo of Rachael Staunton

Rachael Staunton

Rachael passed her Masters by Research in 2018. Her thesis investigated the features of child-directed speech used with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The project was supervised by Cat Daves and Cecile De Cat.