Language 0-7: The transition to literacy

Pre-school oral language abilities are a key predictor of children’s literacy development 1,2,3, and recognition of this has driven campaigns to promote language skills in early years to improve children’s school-readiness 4,5.

In this work package, we will follow the Language 0-5 cohort for a further two years collecting a variety of transition-to-literacy behavioural measures including expressive and productive vocabulary, word reading and listening comprehension measures through Year 2 of school. We will then relate these to the unique set of measures collected in the first phase of LuCiD to determine how early language and cognitive skills impact on word decoding and comprehension skills; these early skills include children’s cognitive precursors to language development, their early years language environment (e.g., input frequency, lexical diversity), and individualised trajectories of oral vocabulary, morphology, and pragmatic development.

This longitudinal behavioural work will be aligned with computational modelling of literacy development to produce formalised explanatory models of the causal links between preschool language and cognitive ability and unfolding literacy skills 6,7.

Project Team: Katie Alcock, Kate Cain (Lead), Morten Christiansen, Lana JagoPadraic Monaghan, Julian Pine, Meredith Rowe, Caroline Rowland and Anna Theakston

Duration: 2 years, starting January 2020

Project Number: 3.3


  1. Duff, F. J., Reen, G., Plunkett, K., & Nation, K. (2015). Do infant vocabulary skills predict school-age language and literacy outcomes? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(8), 848-856.
  2. Fricke, S., Bowyer-Crane, C., Haley, A. J., Hulme, C., & Snowling, M. J. (2013). Efficacy of language intervention in the early years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(3), 280–290.
  3. von Hippel, P., Workman, J., & Downey, D., (2017). Inequality in reading and math skills comes mainly from early childhood: A replication, and partial correction, of 'Are schools the great equalizer?'. SSRN, WP 3036094.
  4. Law, J., McBean, K., & Rush, R. (2011). Communication skills in a population of primary schoolaged children raised in an area of pronounced social disadvantage. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 46(6), 657-664.
  5. Social Mobility Commission (2017). Social mobility in Great Britain: Fifth state of the nation report. UK Government.
  6. Jones, G. & Rowland, C.(2017). Diversity not quantity in caregiver speech: using computational modeling to isolate the effects of the quantity and diversity of the input on vocabulary growth. Cognitive Psychology, 98, 1-21.
  7. Monaghan, P., Chang, Y.N., Welbourne, S., & Brysbaert, M. (2017). Exploring the relations between word frequency, language exposure and bilingualism in a computational model of reading. Journal of Memory and Language, 93, 1-21.