From simple to complex: Scaling up to real-world language learning.

This research stream will take what we have discovered about communicative development in phase 1 and use it to understand how different groups of children learn to use language to communicate in the more complicated real-world situations that they will encounter when they enter school.

Using language to communicate effectively and learning the complex forms that underpin academic language requires children to coordinate their linguistic representations with broader cognitive, socio-cognitive and pragmatic abilities (Haendler, Kliegl, & Adani, 2015; Low, 2010). In our first phase, LuCiD built models of word learning and syntactic development that explain how children combine information from multiple sources in the environment (e.g. Monaghan, 2017), and models of syntactic processing that explain how children’s comprehension and production of complex structures is influenced by their broader cognitive and pragmatic abilities (e.g. de Ruiter, Theakston, Brandt & Lieven, 2018). In this stream, we will extend these models, derived from language studies under controlled conditions, to understand how children learn to communicate in more complex real-world settings, such as preschools and classrooms, in which many disadvantaged children struggle.

There are four projects under this stream:

Together these projects will determine how children learn to use more complex language to communicate effectively in preparation for school and enable us to advise language practitioners about how to support this process in disadvantaged children and children learning English as an additional language.


Haendler, Y., Kliegl, R., & Adani, F. (2015). Discourse accessibility constraints in children's processing of object relative clauses. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 860.

Monaghan, P. (2017). Canalization of language structure from environmental constraints: A computational model of word learning from multiple cues. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9, 21-34.

de Ruiter, L., Theakston, A., Brandt, S., & Lieven, E. (2018). Iconicity affects children’s comprehension of complex sentences: The role of semantics, clause order, input and individual differences. Cognition, 171, 202-224.