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Language, Literacy and Psycholinguistics

Unit(s) of assessment: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Research theme: Sustainable Futures

School: School of Social Sciences


The Language, Literacy, and Psycholinguistics Research Group produces transformative research focused on both skilled and developing performance in spoken language, reading, writing, spelling, audition, and sentence processing. We investigate both typical and atypical populations (e.g. dyslexia, specific language impairment, autism, cochlear implant users) to better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in language processing and related areas (e.g. statistical learning, cognition) and how best to alleviate any difficulties in relation to them.

In addition to standard methodologies, our work also benefits from a range of technologies such as eye-tracking, handwriting fluency capture, and computational modelling. We have several cross-disciplinary collaborations with other members of the Department, other Research Centres, and national and international researchers.

We have been funded by numerous awarding bodies (e.g., The Leverhulme Trust, Education Endowment Foundation, British Academy), work with key stakeholders (e.g., National Literacy Trust, NHS, Norwegian National Reading Centre), have widely published our work (e.g., Developmental Science, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research), and work with numerous national and international collaborators.

Research highlights

Anna Cunningham (PI) received an £85k conditional award from the Nuffield Foundation (CIs Clare Wood, Mike Duncan [Coventry University] and Emma Eyre [Coventry University]) for their project “Feasibility study of a Movement and Story-Telling intervention (MAST) for reception children”.

Clare Wood and Emma Vardy’s research work was a critical source of evidence used by the Primary School Library Alliance in the argument for reinstating primary school libraries.

Examples of current projects

  • Examining word learning cross-linguistically using corpus data (Professor Gary Jones)
  • Comparing first grade classes that teach writing by handwriting and by typing on a tablet, including analysis of fine-motor skills in handwriting (Dr Mark Torrance)
  • A systematic review of writing with language difficulties (Dr Gareth Williams, Dr Rebecca Larkin)
  • Feasibility study of a movement and story-telling (MAST) intervention for reception children (Dr Anna Cunningham)
  • Examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on academic achievement and wellbeing (Professor Clare Wood)

PhD projects

We are always happy to receive interest in PhD projects within our various areas of expertise. We also have the following projects that we are interested in PhD applications for:

"Why are language and literacy interventions effective? An investigation of the mechanisms behind successful educational interventions." (contact Anna Cunningham)

"Leaving no child behind: identifying precursors of slow reading and writing development." (contact Jens Roeser)



Recent publications by members of the research group include:

    Cunningham, A. J., Burgess, A. P., Witton, C., Talcott, J. B., & Shapiro, L. R. (2020). Dynamic relationships between phonological memory and reading: A five year longitudinal study from age 4 to 9. Developmental Science, 24, e12986.

    Jones, G., Cabiddu, F., Andrews, M., & Rowland, C. R. (2021). Chunks of phonological knowledge play a significant role in children’s word learning and explain effects of neighborhood size, phonotactic probability, word frequency and word length. Journal of Memory and Language, 119, 104232.

    Purser, H. R. M., Van Herwegen, J., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2020). The development of children’s comprehension and appreciation of riddles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 189, 104709.

    Roeser, J., Torrance, M., & Baguley, T. (2019). Advance planning in written and spoken sentence production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45, 1983–2009.

    Torrance, M., Arrimada, M. & Gardner, S. (2020). Child‐level factors affecting rate of learning to write in first grade. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 714-734.

    Vousden, J. I., Cunningham, A. J., Johnson H., Waldron S., Ammi S., Pillinger,  C., Savage, R., & Wood, C.  (in press) The impact of a small-group reading programme on English national literacy assessments in seven year-olds: Which skills mediate the link? British Journal of Educational Psychology.

    Williams, G., J., Larkin, R. L., Coyne-Unfreville, E., Herbert, T. C. (2019). The effects of planning and handwriting style on quantity measures in secondary school children’s writing, Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 1143.

    Wonnacott, E., Brown, H., & Nation, K. (2017). Skewing the evidence: the effect of input structure on child and adult learning of lexically based patterns in an artificial language. Journal of Memory and Language, 95, 36-48.

    Wood, C., Clark, C., Teravainen-Goff, A., Rudkin, G., & Vardy, E. (2020). Exploring the literacy related behaviours and feelings of pupils eligible for free school meals in relation to their use of, and access to, school libraries. School Library Research, 23.


  • SMI RED 500 eye tracker
  • Gazepoint portable eye tracker x 2
  • SR Research EyeLink 1000
  • Developmental observation lab