Dr Barbora Skarabela


I am a linguist. My main research area is child language development. I focus on the role of linguistic context and environment in language learning. I am interested in how the linguistic forms and structures children are exposed to influence their early language development.



Wee Barbora!

I received my Bachelor’s degree from Palacký University in Olomouc, the historical capital city of Moravia. I pursued my postgraduate career in the United States, with Master’s degree and PhD from Boston University. I started my career at the University of Edinburgh teaching courses on language acquisition and since 2009 I have been here as a researcher on externally funded projects. I am affiliated with ELfLanD and currently work on an ESRC-funded project on the role of babytalk words in early language development with Dr Mits Ota.

Likes: walking, good coffee, weekends with my children
Dislikes: litter, lies and celery


My research questions are concerned with the nature of the input, and its role in children’s language development. I use corpus data of naturalistic spontaneous speech between young babies and their carers, but also experimental data. Recently, I have been taking advantage of the intermodal preferential looking procedure in ELfLanD that provides us with unique insights into language development even in pre-verbal babies.

Current research topics

  • Babytalk words
  • Acquisition of reference
  • Overregularization in early child language
  • Acquisition of case morphology


  • Ota, M. and Skarabela, B. (submitted). Babytalk word phonology facilitates early word learning: Evidence from preferential looking in 18-month-olds. Cognition.
  • Ota, M. and Skarabela, B. (invited revision). Babytalk words and early lexical development: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Child Language.
  • Skarabela, B., Allen, S. E. M., and Scott-Phillips, T. (2013). Joint attention helps explain why children omit new referents. Journal of Pragmatics, 56, 5-14.
  • O’Connor, C., Maling, J., and 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 and A. Scott (eds.), Morphosyntactic categories and the expression of possession. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
  • Allen, S. E. M., Skarabela, B. and Hughes. M. (2008). Using corpora to examine discourse effects in syntax. In: H. Behrens (Ed.), Trends in corpus research: Finding structure in data. 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(11), 1837-1857.
  • Skarabela, B. and Allen, S. E. M. (2002). Joint attention and argument realization in child Inuktitut. In: Skarabela, B., Fish, S., and Do, A.-H. (eds.), Proceedings of the 26th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp.620-630). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

External links