Dr Catriona Silvey
My research focuses on how children learn and generalise the meanings of words, and how the structure of word meanings changes as languages are culturally transmitted and used for communication. I’m also interested in whether these processes of cultural transmission and communication can explain the origins of abstract concepts that may not be easily accessible without language, such as the meanings of relational words, and how the acquisition of these concepts may support higher order thinking. My full website is here.
I’m originally from Scotland; I grew up in Perthshire and in Derbyshire, England. I did my undergraduate degree in English at the University of Cambridge. After a Masters at the University of Chicago and a spell working in academic publishing at the Public Library of Science, I moved to Edinburgh for an MSc in Evolution of Language and Cognition and a PhD in Linguistics. I then returned to the University of Chicago as a postdoc in Susan Goldin-Meadow’s lab before coming to UCL as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow.
Dr Eva Viviani
I’m interested in understanding the rules by which our brain understands, memorizes or simply forgets and makes mistakes. In the Language Learning lab, my research focuses on the role of the error signal in learning novel words and grammatical rules. Generating a prediction, detecting our own errors and correcting ourselves is a fundamental learning mechanism common to all sorts of species, and this is widely used in learning algorithms in AI. Through experiments with child and adult language learners I attempt to find what better triggers a violation of expectation, and how this might relate to learning algorithms. The ultimate goal is to find out how to learn effectively, and perhaps translate our findings to an educational setting.
I started as a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL in February 2020. Before this, I completed my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at SISSA and my undergraduate studies in Psychology at University of Parma in Italy. Before joining the Language Learning lab, my research focused on the relationship between learning and memory, with a focus on what happens to our visual perception when we learn to read novel words. Apart from my scientific interests, I try to do my best by not playing too many videogames, and focussing on my other hobbies: cooking/eating and pole dancing.
Dr Gwen Brekelmans
My research focuses on how children learn new sounds of a second or foreign language, and in particular the vowels. What I try to find out is how differences in the training method affect their learning patterns, and how children differ from adults in this.
I finished my PhD in the Language Learning Lab in 2020 (see here for a copy of my thesis), and continue to work in the lab as an RA and the Lab Manager. You can find my website here.
I grew up in the Netherlands, and did an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen, followed by a research master’s degree in Linguistics focusing on phonetics and second language acquisition at the same university, before I came over to London to do my PhD at UCL.
My main research question is how individual differences (e.g. tone perception ability and memory) might affect second language learning of Mandarin. I also aim to develop a more effective and practical training method for second language learning.
I was born in China and came to the UK when I was 18. I did my undergraduate in Experimental Psychology at University of Bristol, followed by a Master’s in Language Science at UCL. I carried on as a PhD student at UCL at the Language Learning Lab.
Felicia Daniela Singh
My research interests lie in the learning mechanisms that underlie spelling development and individual differences in these mechanisms between people that, once identified, can help us design efficient intervention programs. My focus is on the less explored ability to learn incidentally via implicit learning processes that must operate alongside learning of spelling patterns through explicit teaching. What types of regularities do we learn and when do we become sensitive to them? To answer these questions, my experiments are designed to induce incidental learning of various artificial spelling patterns in both children and adults.
I grew up in Transylvania, in a bilingual family (Romanian-Hungarian) and received a BA (Hons) in Business and Languages degree from Oxford Brookes University (in association with International Business School in Budapest), in 2004. In 2015, after a period of working as a research analyst and then nurturing my two children (ongoing), I received an MSc in Language Sciences from UCL and am now doing my PhD in the Language Learning Lab.
I am interested in how biases which learners bring to the task of language learning might shape language structure, and whether these biases are different for learners of different age. I combine several approaches to look at this: artificial language learning experiments, silent gesture experiments, and computational modelling. My website can be found here.
Before starting my PhD in the Language Learning Lab in 2016, I completed an MRes in Speech, Language and Cognition here at UCL (2016), and an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh (2015). I am originally from Montenegro, and I also lived in Slovenia, where I finished high school.
Dr Anna Samara
Broadly speaking, my research addresses questions about literacy development and impairment. I am particularly interested in typically developing children’s ability to pick up on statistical patterns within and between sound and letter combinations: these patterns are replete in one’s orthography yet they are not always explicitly taught (e.g., “final consonants are more frequently doubled after single vowels than double vowels”; e.g. Jeff vs deaf). Previous and ongoing experiments probe precisely what patterns young spellers can learn and under what circumstances, to shed light on underlying learning mechanisms. I am also interested in literacy impairment. For example, some of my previous work has rigorously investigated the putative statistical learning difficulties of dyslexic adults and whether they underpin their reading and spelling difficulties.
I completed my PhD in Psychology in 2014 at Bangor University, UK. In my doctoral research, I introduced an experimental methodology using artificial language stimuli to explore whether statistical learning mechanisms (which have been well-studied in the area of spoken language development) have relevance for spelling development. After my PhD, I was a postdoctoral Research Associate in the Language Learning lab on a number of projects that investigate children’s ability to extract statistical patterns from spoken input. My earlier work (2014-2017) (together with Dr Wonnacott and Dr Kenny Smith at the University of Edinburgh) looked at children’s ability to learn statistically based sociolinguistic cues that condition the use of variation in natural languages (i.e., learning that different speakers, e.g., speakers of a specific dialect, tend to use different linguistic variants). My later work (2017-2019) was on an ERC funded project, awarded to Professor Ben Ambridge (University of Liverpool) that investigated what types of linguistic input discourage children from producing ungrammatical sentences of the type “The funny clown laughed the man”.
MSc student 2015-2016, now PhD student at UCL with Prof Courtenay Norbury.