Professor Holly Branigan


When my children were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to start talking to me. Now I can never get a word in edgeways as they bombard me with stories and arguments, discussions and debates. How do they do this? That’s what I study: how children are able to combine individual words to form complex sentences, and how they use these sentences to communicate effectively.



Wee Branigans!

After taking a degree in Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, Holly moved to the University of Edinburgh to undertake postgraduate study in Cognitive Science. Her PhD thesis examined the psychological basis of syntactic representation in adults. She subsequently moved to the Department of Psychology at the University of Glasgow as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. Since 1999, she has worked at the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, where she is now Professor of Psychology of Language and Cognition and British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow (2014-15). Her research is primarily concerned with language production and dialogue in adults and children (including bilingual and atypical populations).

Likes: mountains; sunny days; gazing at stars
Dislikes: peas; tidying up; itchy jumpers


Grammatical representation and processing in typical and atypical children; children’s dialogue skills.


  • Garraffa, M., Coco, M., & Branigan, H.P. (in press). Subject relatives in children with SLI in structural priming and sentence repetition. Language Learning and Development.
  • Jones, M.W., Ashby, J., & Branigan, H.P. (In press). Dyslexia and fluency: Parafoveal and foveal influences on rapid automatized naming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. doi: 10.1037/a0029710
  • Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P., & McLean, J.F. (2012). Is children’s acquisition of the passive a staged process? Evidence from six and nine-year-olds’ production of passives. Journal of Child Language, 39, 991-1016.
  • Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P., McLean, J.F., & Sorace, A. (2012). Are children’s early passives semantically constrained? Evidence from syntactic priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 66, 568-587.
  • Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P., & McLean, J.F. (2011). Evidence for (shared) abstract structure underlying children’s short and full passives. Cognition, 121, 268-274.
  • More publications

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