Dr Catherine Davies

Dr Catherine Davies


I joined the University of Leeds as a Teaching Fellow in 2011 and became a Lecturer a year later. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018.

Previously, I obtained my MPhil in 2006 then my PhD in developmental pragmatics in 2011, both from the University of Cambridge. I did my postdoc with the School of Psychology at the University of Kent in 2010.

I manage the Leeds Child Development Unit, our lab facility for studying language acquisition.

I am available for postgraduate research supervision. I consider quality applications in first language acquisition which take a constructivist approach, particularly concerning the development of reference and pragmatics, the nature of the language input, or other topics relating to my research interests below. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss project ideas in more detail. Please note that I cannot supervise projects in L2 pragmatics.


  • Director of Research, School of Languages, Cultures, and Societies

Research interests

My research interests are in first language development, pragmatics, and psycholinguistics. I use experimental data (behavioural; eyetracking) to investigate pragmatic development, i.e. how children understand and produce meaning beyond vocabulary and grammar. My main area of research investigates how aspects of a child's language input influence their own language development. Most of my previous research has looked at how children and adults integrate information from communicative contexts (including speaker identity, discourse goals, and common ground) into their referential choices in both production and comprehension.

My current ESRC-funded project Children's experience, understanding, and use of adjectives across the socioeconomic spectrum (with Jamie Lingwood) investigates children's descriptive language abilities, and how their socioeconomic background might impact on this area of language. It uses corpus analyses, eyetracking experiments, 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.

As part of the ESRC-funded project Promoting language development via shared reading, I worked with Danielle Matthews and Michelle McGillion (University of Sheffield) on a randomised controlled trial to promote caregiver-child inference-based dialogue during shared book reading and to establish whether an increase in this type of talk can boost children’s inferencing ability.

I completed the British Academy funded project Exploring psycholinguistic eye tracking methodologies and data analytic techniques, with Helene Kreysa (Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, Germany). As part of this grant, we published two papers on the integration of visual and linguistic information during the production of referring expressions by adults and children.

My work in adult language processing includes a study investigating whether speaker-specific cues (i.e. speaker identity) influence semantic disambiguation. This work is with Vince PorrettaEkaterini Klepousniotou, and Kremena Koleva. Other collaborators include Courtenay Norbury (UCL), Clara Andrés Roqueta (Universitat Jaume I de Castellón), and Napoleon Katsos (University of Cambridge).

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Overinformativeness in Referential Communication
  • MPhil English and Applied Linguistics
  • BA (Hons) Linguistics and Phonetics

Professional memberships

  • Experimental Psychology Society
  • International Association for the Study of Child Language (IASCL)

Research groups and institutes

  • Linguistics and Phonetics
  • Language acquisition
  • Language processing
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>