Children's experience, understanding, and use of adjectives across the socioeconomic spectrum



Partners and collaborators

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; New York University; Leeds City Council; The Rainbow Factory creative arts play centre, Leeds; National Literacy Trust


This project investigates language development and socioeconomic disadvantage. It aims to reveal how children’s socioeconomic background might affect their descriptive language abilities. It uses eyetracking experiments, corpus analyses, and a randomised controlled trial to investigate children's psycholinguistic processing within its social context, leading to recommendations for families and practitioners working with children facing challenges with adjectives and other forms of descriptive language.


The project will provide empirical evidence about how the language that children hear affects their own language abilities, and in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, will translate research findings into classroom and clinical practice.

A free online research workshop and practicioner CPD took place in March 2021: Children Learning Adjectives, Perspectives from psychological research, the primary classroom, and speech and language therapy.

Publications and outputs

Davies, C., Lingwood, J., Ivanova, B., & Arunachalam, S. (under review) Preschoolers’ comprehension of adjectives: Evidence for contrastive inference. Preprint available at 

Davies, C., Lingwood, J. & Arunachalam, S. (2019) Adjective forms and functions in British English child-directed speech. Journal of Child Language, 47, 159–185.

Project website