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.
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
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 the Paediatric Narcolepsy Project, a behavioural intervention for sleep problems in children with ADHD and a White Rose DTC ESRC Network (2015 – 2018) for understanding and enhancing reading and language skills in children for whom English is an additional language.
I am a language development researcher interested in how the quality of the input that children experience relates to how they learn language. My research is broadly focused on how we can design, implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions to foster children’s language development. I work with caregivers and children from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and I am currently working on an ESRC project with Dr Cat Davies in which we are investigating how children experience, understand, and use adjectives across the socioeconomic spectrum. Using eyetracking experiments, corpus analyses, and a randomised controlled trial, the project aims to reveal how children’s socioeconomic background might affect their descriptive language abilities.
Rachael graduated in BA (Hons) German and Linguistics in July 2015, and has since worked with adults with residual communication difficulties following a stroke. She is now working towards her MA by Research in Linguistics, investigating features of child-directed speech used with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).