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Meet the Team

Our researchers

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Professor Julian Pine

Julian Pine is a Professor at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on how children learn grammar and morphology in different languages, and on using computer models to understand how differences in the pattern of errors shown by children learning different languages are related to the characteristics of the ​language that they are learning.

Contact:

jpine@liverpool.ac.uk

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Dr. Daniel Freudenthal

Daniel has an interest in the simulation of cognitive processes, in particular language acquisition. The main focus of his work is on MOSAIC, a computational model that is used to investigate how children’s early multi-word speech is shaped by the statistical properties of the language they hear. Simulations with MOSAIC have revolved around children’s increasing ability to correctly inflect verbs. Across a range of languages, MOSAIC produces the same types of errors at rates comparable to those in children because it is sensitive to the distributional statistics of the input to which it is exposed in a manner that places great weight on the last items in the speech stream (i.e. has an utterance-final bias, or strong recency effect).

Contact:

d.freudenthal@liverpool.ac.uk

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Heather Turnbull

Heather Turnbull has been working at the Language Lab on a range of projects including Language 0-5, Language 0-6 and Word Learning. During her PhD she will be looking at
whether babies can learn sounds which appear together in speech, and whether they can use this knowledge to learn words. Her studies will be for 8 to 12 month olds and will use the eye-tracker as this is a really great way to help find out which sounds infants like to listen to the most. 

Contact:

H.J.Turnbull@liverpool.ac.uk

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Chi-hsin (Esther) Chen

Chi-hsin (Esther) Chen is interested in early language and cognitive development. Her research program focuses on three aspects that contribute to language learning: 1) learning mechanisms, 2) the input children receive in real-time interaction, and 3) how young children’s sensory experience (e.g., with or without hearing loss) influences input and affects learning.

Contact:

Chi-Hsin.Chen@liverpool.ac.uk

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Dr. Perrine Brusini

Perrine's research aims to shed light on the mechanisms engaged in language processing, and how these mechanisms arise during development. She investigates this line of research using neuroimaging techniques adapted for infant research as EEG and fNIRS.

The main research question she addresses in her work is: how does the human brain specifically interact with a particular language to shape the language processing system of each listener/speaker?

 

Contact:

P.Brusini@liverpool.ac.uk

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Dr. Andrew Jessop

Andrew Jessop is a postdoctoral research associate at the Liverpool Language Lab. His research involves running computer simulations to build new theories of how children learn their first language. This is possible thanks the Merseyside families that participate in our studies. Recently, Andrew has studied how the infants learn their first words. Our team have collected recordings of parents talking with their children. This gives us an insight into the language that babies hear in their everyday life and how they might learn to talk. The transcripts of these natural interactions are then fed into a computer program that imitates the way we think babies learn language. We can then compare the results of these simulations to the language abilities of the babies in our studies, which allows to falsify our theories and come up with new ideas.

Contact:

andrew.jessop@liverpool.ac.uk

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Hannah Sawyer

Hannah is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Liverpool Language Lab in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute. She is working on a Speed of Processing eye-tracking study which investigates how quickly 2-year-old children shift their attention to familiar target words. Hannah has also just submitted her PhD where she studied both typically developing children and children with Developmental Language Disorder on how they learn to use different verb forms correctly and whether the input they hear from their parents can influence this process. She is currently waiting for her PhD VIVA and is looking forward to becoming Dr. Sawyer (fingers crossed!)

Contact:

hshsawy2@liverpool.ac.uk

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Audred Visaya

Audred is currently working part-time as a Research Assistant at the Language Lab in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute. His research interests are in child language acquisition and the influences both parent and child have on each other. He is working on transcribing data from the Language 0-5 project while he is doing his masters in Lancaster. After his masters, he will start his PhD, studying how early caregiver-infant interactions lead to language learning.

Contact:

visayaa@liverpool.ac.uk

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Dr. Liam Blything

Broadly, Liam's research aims to reveal the role of different cognitive and language-related skills that underpin children’s understanding for sentence (or discourse) structures that express information about time (e.g., connectives: before, after), causality (e.g., connectives: because, so), and referential relations (e.g., ambiguous pronouns: he, she). His underpinning theoretical framework is to understand how these skills in turn reflect differences in frequency of exposure.

Contact:

liam.blything@liverpool.ac.uk

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Dr. Panagiotis Boutris

Panagiotis is a postdoctoral researcher working on a project looking at the neural processes involved in word learning in typically developing children and children with developmental language disorder. Panagiotis’s research revolves around the question of how babies are able to learn their native language. He investigates rhythm perception and speech segmentation, and how babies can use cues such as transitional probabilities and stress to bootstrap language acquisition using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques (EEG).

Contact:

P.Boutris@liverpool.ac.uk

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Jessica Gay

Jess is our lab manager and research assistant at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute. She is currently working on a Speed of Processing eye tracking study with 2-year-olds. In this study children are shown two pictures on a screen and using the eye tracker we are monitoring the speed at which they recognise familiar words in speech. Within her role Jess is also in charge of the recruitment efforts for the lab and manages our social media pages, as well as working on transcription of the 0-5 project data.

Contact:

 jcgay@liverpool.ac.uk

Alumni

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Professor Caroline Rowland

Caroline Rowland is a Professor at the University of Liverpool and Director of Language Development at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. She leads the Language 0-5 Project and has worked on language development since graduating as a psychologist in 1993. She has two children who are grown up and who have been very patient with her attempts to study their language development.

Contact:

Caroline.Rowland@mpi.nl

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Dr. Jill Lany

Jill now works at Lancaster University, with her research situated at the intersection of language acquisition, cognitive development, and human learning. Much of her recent research focuses on the mechanisms supporting early word learning.

 

Contact:

j.lany@lancaster.ac.uk 

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Dr. Michelle Lowe

​Michelle now works as a Social Scientist for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the UCL Institute of Child Health where she is involved in evaluating the implementation of prenatal genomic services across the UK.
She still provides consultation in a language research capacity, working primarily with BBC's Tiny Happy People.

Contact:

michelle.lowe@ucl.ac.uk

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Dr. Judit Fazekas

Judit completed her PhD here in Liverpool and is now a lecturer at the University of Manchester. Her main interest is how prediction - the ability to guess upcoming words or sounds - can help children learn language. She is still involved in an exciting project in Liverpool, which is looking at whether 9-month-old infants can predict the ending of newly learned words.

 

Contact: 

judit.fazekas@manchester.ac.uk

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Beth Gerrard

Beth Gerrard was Lab Manager at the Liverpool Language Lab and has worked on various projects including Story Starters, Language 0-5 and Accent and Grammar Learning. She started work on a new project with 2-year-old children looking at the speed at which they can recognise familiar words in speech. Beth also managed the social media accounts and website for the Language Lab and is always looking for interesting content to share with our followers. 

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Professor Ben Ambridge

Ben Ambridge is a Professor at the University of Manchester. His research investigates children's first language acquisition, mostly using judgement and production methodologies. He is particularly interested in children's overgeneralization errors (e.g., *The joked giggled him).  He also studies children's acquisition of morphology, focusing particularly on Optional Infinitive errors in English (e.g., *He play) and agreement/case-marking errors in morphologically rich languages, specifically Polish, Finnish and Lithuanian. Ben also writes popular science - his book, Psy-Q, introduces readers to interesting findings from the Psychology literature by means of interactive tests, ​games, illusions and quizzes.

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Dr. Gregoire Vergotte

Gregoire Vergotte was a researcher at The University of Liverpool who completed his PhD in Montpellier, France. He then worked in Toulouse before joining the Language Lab and worked on a project looking at how children’s brains work when listening to sounds and discerning words. Gregoire will look at children with and without speech difficulties and, like Dr. Ball, used EEG as part of his research.

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Dr. Amy Bidgood

In the Language Lab, Amy worked with Ben Ambridge looking at grammatical errors in children's speech, completing her PhD on the same topic, and on the Language 0-5 Project. Her current research interests include the effects of digital media use on preschool children's development, child-dog interactions, and how exercise, sleep, and word-learning are linked.

Contact:

A.Bidgood@ljmu.ac.uk

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Dr. Lewis Ball

Lewis was a fourth year demonstrator who received his PhD at the University of Liverpool. His research looks at understanding how infants learn new words using electroencephalography (EEG). EEG is a technique which measures the electrical activity produced in the brain whilst participants engage in some sort of task. In Lewis’ experiments, he uses EEG to detect signs of learning when children are taught new words.

Contact:

hllball2@liverpool.ac.uk 

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Emma Thornton

Emma Thornton was a 3rd year PhD student at The University of Liverpool. Her PhD consisted of secondary data analyses of large and nationally representative British cohort studies (the 1970 British Cohort Study and the Millennium Cohort Study) to investigate inequalities in vocabulary across childhood. Emma also looked at how these inequalities affect outcomes, such as mental health, comparing two cohorts born 30 years apart and separated by a period of significant social change in the UK. 

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Professor Marilia Costa

Marilia is a Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was here under a Junior Visiting Professor overseas grant of the Institutional Internationalization Program from the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), foundation of the Brazilian Ministry of Education (MEC), a Brazilian funding agency. Marilia is the head of the SOPA-Lab, a research group on Sign and Oral languages in Psycholinguistics and Acquisition. The group has a page on Instagram – @ sopa_lab – where one may find videos on Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) to encourage families of deaf children to learn Libras to better communicate with their children. She is currently working on the morphology of
Brazilian Sign Language and researching the impact of the pandemic on deaf and hearing Brazilian children learning Brazilian Portuguese. She was here with us until the end of March 2023 working with Dr. Brusini on an analysis of an EEG study on two-year-olds’ knowledge of verbs.

 

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Dr. Samantha Durrant

Samantha now works part-time as a post-doctoral researcher within LuCiD and part-time as a lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy both at University of Manchester. Her research looks at how children influence their own learning environment, predominantly looking at curiosity behaviours.

Contact:

Samantha.durrant@manchester.ac.uk

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Dr. Claire Noble

Claire Noble is a Research Associate at the University of Liverpool. She completed her PhD here in 2009 and worked on language development until she left recently.  She was part of the ‘Reading Together’ project team who looked at how shared book reading can support language development. She also worked with our partners at Beanstalk to evaluate their ‘Story Starters’ programme in local preschools.

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Anna Brown

Anna is currently working as a post-doc on a project funded by the Nuffield Foundation at the University of York. She aims to investigate early life language experiences and its relationship with family background and various outcomes in the lives of children. research interests focus on what helps babies to learn. 

Contact:

anna.brown2@york.ac.uk

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