Barbora Skarabela

Knowledge Exchange & Impact Officer, Lothian Birth Cohorts

  • Psychology
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



Room F4, Psychology Building

7 George Square, Edinburgh
Post code


Dr Skarabela is Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer for the Lothian Birth Cohort studies in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

She received her PhD at Boston University and has specialised as a developmental linguist, working on child language development. Her research has focused on infant- and child-directed speech and its impact on preverbal and early language development and the crosslinguistic patterns and mechanisms of morpho-syntactic acquisition, with focus on referential communication. She assesses development with experimental and corpus studies and uses both quantitative and qualitative data.

Her broader interests include language change across the lifespan, language of information for diverse audiences, and public engagement in areas of linguistics, language development and cognitive ageing.

Selected publications:

Skarabela, B., Ota, M., O’Connor, R. and Arnon, I. (2021). Clap your hands' or 'take your hands'? One-year-olds distinguish between frequent and infrequent multiword phrases. Cognition.

Corley, J., Okely, J.A., Taylor, A.M., Page, D., Welstead, M., Skarabela, B., Redmond, P., Cox S.R., and Russ, T.C. (2020). Home garden use during COVID-19: associations with physical and mental wellbeing in older adults. Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Okely, J., Corley, J., Welstead, M., Taylor, A., Page, D., Skarabela, B., Redmond, P., Cox, S., Russ, T. (2020). Change in lifestyle and psychosocial factors during the COVID-19 lockdown: evidence from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

ManyBabies Consortium. (Accepted pending data collection; 37 authors). Testing the Relationship Between Preferences for Infant-Directed Speech and Vocabulary Development: A Multi-Lab Study. Journal of Child Language.

ManyBabies Consortium (2020; 143 authors). Quantifying sources of variability in infancy research using the infant-directed speech preference. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 3, 24-52.

Unsworth, S., Chondrogianni, V., & Skarabela, B. (2018). Experiential measures can be used as a proxy for language dominance in bilingual language acquisition research. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1809.

Ota, M., Davies-Jenkins, N., & Skarabela, B. (2018). Why choo-choo is better than train: The role of register-specific words in early vocabulary development. Cognitive Science, 42, 1974-1999.

Ota, M., & Skarabela, B. (2018). Reduplication facilitates early word segmentation. Journal of Child Language, 45, 204-218.

Skarabela, B. & Ota, M. (2017). Two-year-olds but not younger children comprehend it in ambiguous contexts: Evidence from preferential looking. Journal of Child Language, 44, 255–268.

Ota, M. & Skarabela, B. (2016). Reduplicated words are easier to learn. Language Learning and Development, 12, 380-397.

Allen, S.E., Hughes, M.E., & Skarabela, B. (2015). Discourse-pragmatic effects on child argument realization in spontaneous speech. In: Serratrice, L. & Allen, S.E. (Eds.), The acquisition of reference (pp.123-153). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Skarabela, B., Allen, S. E. M., & Scott-Phillips, T. (2013). Joint attention helps explain why children omit new referents. Journal of Pragmatics, 56, 5-14.

O’Connor, C., Maling, J., & Skarabela, B. (2013). Nominal categories and the expression of possession: A cross-linguistic study of probabilistic tendencies and categorical constraints. In: K. Börjars, D. Denison & A. Scott (eds.), Morphosyntactic categories and the expression of possession. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Smith, A. D. M., Skarabela, B., & Tamariz, M. (2010). Exploring the nature of a systematicity bias: An experimental study. In: A. D. M. Smith, B. de Boer, M. Schouwstra, & K. Smith (eds.), The Evolution of Language (EVOLANG8): Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. World Scientific.

Skarabela, B. & Serratrice, L. (2009). ‘The doctor’s mother’ or ‘the mother of the doctor’?: Syntactic priming of possessive noun phrases in English preschoolers. Proceedings of the 33rd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.

Allen, S. E. M., Skarabela, B., & Hughes. M. (2008). Using corpora to examine discourse effects in syntax. In: H. Behrens (Ed.), Trends in corpus research: Corpora in Language Acquisition Research (pp.99-137). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Skarabela, B. (2007). Signs of early social cognition in children’s syntax: The case of joint attention in argument realization in child Inuktitut. Lingua, 117, 1837-1857.

Current PhD students supervised