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Emma James

Formerly at Lancaster University

Emma James

Research Interests

My interests lie broadly within the development and disorders of reading and language. In particular, I seek to understand more about the development reading comprehension, and how this process breaks down in struggling readers.

Current Research

I am working for Professor Kate Cain on project that aims to assess the role of morphological awareness in the development of reading comprehension.

Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in language, which we can combine to generate and understand a near-infinite number of words. We can do this by both compounding base words (eg. tree house) and using affixes (eg. un-friend-ly). Awareness of morphology is critical component of language ability, and has been closely associated with various aspects of reading ability.

In English, morphemes are represented phonologically; changes in word structure are represented by sounds, and we can decode these sounds from written text even if we have not encountered them before. However, the Chinese writing system directly corresponds to the meanings of words, without clues to pronunciation. For example, the Chinese character for 'sun' also appears in the written forms of other words, such as 'warm', 'evening', and 'sunshine'.

In collaboration with researchers at Hong Kong University, this project aims to identify the different contributions that morphological awareness might therefore play in the reading comprehension ability of developing English and Chinese Cantonese readers.

In addition to this, I am interested in the morphological difficulties experienced by children with specific comprehension impairments ('poor comprehenders'), and we seek to better identify these problems across development. 


BA Experimental Psychology (2013), University of Oxford