Barbora Skarabela

Knowledge Exchange & Impact Officer, Lothian Birth Cohorts

  • Psychology
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



Room F3, Psychology Building

7 George Square, Edinburgh
Post code


I am a developmental linguist. My research focuses on how verbal ability in the early years relates to children’s linguistic input and environment, and how it changes across the life-course. In my work on the acquisition of Inuktitut I have shown that joint attention influences morphosyntactic development. My research on infant-directed speech shows that the sound characteristics of baby-talk words facilitate early lexical development. My most recent work has focused on the production-comprehension asymmetry in children’s acquisition of discourse connectives like “but”.

Since 2019 I have been working with the Lothian Birth Cohorts studies in Psychology as Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer, leading the group's engagement activities and sharing their research on brain and cognitive ageing with non-academic audiences.

Representative outputs

Joint attention:

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

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


Baby-talk words:

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.

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

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



Skarabela, B., Cuthbert, N., Rees A., Rohde, H., & Rabagliati, H. (2023). Learning dimensions of meaning: Children's acquisition of "but". Cognitive Psychology. https://10.1016/j.cogpsych.2023.101597

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. http://10.1017/S0305000915000781

Past PhD students supervised

Emma Healey (2019). The reference problem and how children use gesture and grammatical number to solve it.