Professor Vera Kempe

Professor of Psychology and Language Learning

School School of Applied Sciences

Department Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8586

Biography

BSc/Msc Psychology  Moscow State University, PhD  Humboldt University

Prof Kempe researches first and second language learning and processing. Her current research interests include evolution and function of child-directed speech, cross-linguistic comparisons of morphology acquisition, dialect processing and the interplay between emotion and communication. With Patricia J. Brooks, she has co-authored the textbook 'Language Development' and co-edited the 'Encyclopedia of Language Development'. She currently leads a Leverhulme Trust-funded 3-year project on literacy acquisition in situations of dialect exposure. 

In her current role as Leader of the Society Theme at Abertay she is involved in fostering inter-disciplinary links between Behavioural Science and Game Design.

If you are interested in postgraduate research in any of these and related areas, please get in touch.

Spring 2018

  • PSY302 Developmental Psychology (BSc) - with Janet McLean & Glenn Williams

  • PSY507 Developmental and Social Psychology (MSc) - with Lara Wood & Janet McLean

  • PSY310 Cultural Evolution of Behaviour - with Lara Wood

  • PSY405 Language Education and the Early Years - with Janet McLean 

Interests

Currently funded projects: for more info and to participate in one of our studies go here.

Pilot-Testing CulTra: Crowd-Sourcing Research Games for the Study of Cultural Transmission (with Nikolay Panayotov, Sheila Cunningham, Monica Tamariz (HWU) and Nicolas Gauvrit (Paris 8) - funded by Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

Literacy Acquisition in Situations of Dialect Exposure - funded by the Leverhulme Trust (with Glenn Williams and Nikolay Panayotov)

I am interested in first and second language learning in children and adults, particularly in how morphology is learned in different languages. I am particularly interested in how the input that learners receive, for example, the speech typically directed to children, affects the learning process. Some of my research has shown that using diminutives (words like doggie, bunny, kitty), which express smallness and positive affect, can - as a side effect - boost learning of grammatical gender or case in some languages (e.g. Kempe & Brooks, 2005). Related lines of research examine how learners' cognitive abilities interact with the language input (e.g. Brooks, Kempe & Sionov, 2006), and how learners deal with linguistic variation of the kind found in various dialects, especially in the realm of literacy acquisition. This research informs us about language learning in general but also has practical implications for omptimising language learning and teaching.

More recently, I became interested in trying to understand what mechanisms lead speakers to adjust their language for the benefit of the learner. One line of inquiry explores the role of emotions in this process. Because interactions with babies tend to elicit positive affect in their mothers, we wanted to see whether happy speakers are clearer speakers. Turns out this is not necessarily the case (e.g. Kempe, Rookes & Swarbrigg, 2013). My current research now explores further how affective states influence, and are influenced by, communication. My lab also investigates how spontaneous enhancement of language input by experts (e.g. parents) for novices (e.g. children) affects not just the language learning process but also the structure of language itself. Using iterated learning in the lab we explore how learning and teaching biases affect the cultural transmission of language.

2018

The impact of dialect exposure on artificial literacy learning in transparent and opaque orthographies

Williams, G. P., Kempe, V. & Panayotov, N. (2018) The impact of dialect exposure on artificial literacy learning in transparent and opaque orthographies. . . .
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Adults are more efficient in creating and transmitting novel signalling systems than children

Kempe, V., Gauvrit, N., Gibson, A. & Jamieson, M. (2018) Adults are more efficient in creating and transmitting novel signalling systems than children. . . p. 44-70. .
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The emergence of modern languages

Benítez-Burraco, A. & Kempe, V. (2018) The emergence of modern languages. . . .
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2017

Does exposure to dialect variation help or hinder literacy acquisition?

Williams, G., Panayotov, N. & Kempe, V. (2017) Does exposure to dialect variation help or hinder literacy acquisition?. . . p. 83. .
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Introducing the artificial literacy learning paradigm for literacy acquisition research

Williams, G., Panayotov, N. & Kempe, V. (2017) Introducing the artificial literacy learning paradigm for literacy acquisition research. . . p. 218. .
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Iterated teaching can optimise language functionality

Kempe, V., Cichon, K., Gauvrit, N. & Tamariz, M. (2017) Iterated teaching can optimise language functionality. In: Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. . p. 651-656. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
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The role of teaching in iterated language transmission

Kempe, V., Cichon, K., Tamariz, M. & Gauvrit, N. (2017) The role of teaching in iterated language transmission. In: The evolution of language: proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (Evolang12). Cuskley, C. (ed.), Little, H. (ed.), Ravignani, A. (ed.), Flaherty, M. (ed.), McCrohon, L. (ed.), Verhoef, T. (ed.). p. 206-208. . Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikolaja Kopernika.
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Linking adult second language learning and diachronic change

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2017) Linking adult second language learning and diachronic change. . . .
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More is more in language learning

Brooks, P. J. & Kempe, V. (2017) More is more in language learning. . . p. 13-41. .
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2016

Making meaning

Kempe, V. (2016) Making meaning. . . .
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Can monolinguals be like bilinguals? Evidence from dialect switching

Kirk, N. W., Kempe, V., Scott-Brown, K. C., Philipp, A. & Declerck, M. (2016) Can monolinguals be like bilinguals? Evidence from dialect switching. . . p. 164-178. .
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Miniature natural language learning in L2 acquisition research

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2016) Miniature natural language learning in L2 acquisition research. In: Cognitive individual differences in second language processing and acquisition. Granena, G. (ed.), Jackson, D. (ed.), Yilmaz, Y. (ed.). p. 41-67. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
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Comparing emergence of structure during cultural transmission of a novel signaling system in children and adults

Kempe, V. & Gauvrit, N. (2016) Comparing emergence of structure during cultural transmission of a novel signaling system in children and adults. . . p. 10. .
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Modern theories of language

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2016) Modern theories of language. In: Encyclopedia of evolutionary psychological science. Shackelford, T. (ed.), Weekes-Shackelford, V. (ed.). 1 ed., Cham: Springer.
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2015

Are changes in articulatory settings responsible for the language switching cost?

Kirk, N. W., Scott-Brown, K. C. & Kempe, V. (2015) Are changes in articulatory settings responsible for the language switching cost?. . . .
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Exploring the dynamic relationship between emotion and referential communication

Moulds, D., McLean, J. F. & Kempe, V. (2015) Exploring the dynamic relationship between emotion and referential communication. . . p. 353. .
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Cognitive load does not facilitate the emergence of structure during iterated pattern reproduction

Kempe, V. & Gauvrit, N. (2015) Cognitive load does not facilitate the emergence of structure during iterated pattern reproduction. . . p. 486. .
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Demands on executive functioning can differ among monolinguals

Kirk, N. W., Kempe, V., Scott-Brown, K. C., Philipp, A. & Declerck, M. (2015) Demands on executive functioning can differ among monolinguals. . . p. 499. .
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Revisiting theoretical and causal explanations for the bilingual advantage in executive functioning

Kempe, V., Kirk, N. W. & Brooks, P. J. (2015) Revisiting theoretical and causal explanations for the bilingual advantage in executive functioning. . . p. 342-344. .
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Distributional effects and individual differences in L2 morphology learning

Brooks, P. J., Kwoka, N. & Kempe, V. (2015) Distributional effects and individual differences in L2 morphology learning. . . p. 171-207. .
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Intelligence mediates the link between music training and second language learning

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2015) Intelligence mediates the link between music training and second language learning. . . .
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2014

Encyclopedia of language development

Brooks, P. J. & Kempe, V. (2014) Encyclopedia of language development. . . London: SAGE.
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Cognitive cost of switching between standard and dialect varieties

Kirk, N. W., Declerck, M., Scott-Brown, K. C., Kempe, V. & Philipp, A. (2014) Cognitive cost of switching between standard and dialect varieties. . . .
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Iterated language learning in adults and children

Kempe, V. (2014) Iterated language learning in adults and children. . . p. 60-62. .
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Pre-schoolers’ referential communication with peers and adults

Kempe, V., Gibson, A. & Jamieson, M. (2014) Pre-schoolers’ referential communication with peers and adults. . . .
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No evidence for reduced Simon cost in elderly bilinguals and bidialectals

Kirk, N. W., Fiala, L., Scott-Brown, K. C. & Kempe, V. (2014) No evidence for reduced Simon cost in elderly bilinguals and bidialectals. . . p. 640-648 . .
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Structure emerges faster during cultural transmission in children than in adults

Kempe, V., Gauvrit, N. & Forsyth, D. (2014) Structure emerges faster during cultural transmission in children than in adults. . . p. 247-254. .
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2013

Musical ability and non-native speech-sound processing are linked through sensitivity to pitch and spectral information

Kempe, V., Bublitz, D. & Brooks, P. J. (2013) Musical ability and non-native speech-sound processing are linked through sensitivity to pitch and spectral information. . . p. 349–366. .
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Masculine men articulate less clearly

Kempe, V., Puts, D. A. & Cárdenas, R. A. (2013) Masculine men articulate less clearly. . . p. 461-475. .
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2012

Children’s tolerance of word-form variation

Bruening, P. R., Brooks, P. J., Alfieri, L., Kempe, V. & Dabašinskienė, I. (2012) Children’s tolerance of word-form variation. . . .
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Speaker emotion can affect ambiguity production

Kempe, V., Rookes, M. & Swarbrigg, L. (2012) Speaker emotion can affect ambiguity production. . . p. 1579-1590. .
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Individual differences in the discrimination of novel speech sounds: effects of sex, temporal processing, musical and cognitive abilities

Kempe, V., Thoresen, J. C., Kirk, N. W., Schaeffler, F. & Brooks, P. J. (2012) Individual differences in the discrimination of novel speech sounds: effects of sex, temporal processing, musical and cognitive abilities. . . .
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Individual differences in adult foreign language learning

Brooks, P. J. & Kempe, V. (2012) Individual differences in adult foreign language learning. . . p. 281-296. .
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2011

Individual differences in adult second language learning: a cognitive perspective

Kempe, V. (2011) Individual differences in adult second language learning: a cognitive perspective. . . p. 15-22. .
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Digit ratio is linked to affective empathy in women

Kempe, V. & Heffernan, E. (2011) Digit ratio is linked to affective empathy in women. . . p. 430-433. .
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Second language learning benefits from similarity in word endings: evidence from Russian

Brooks, P. J., Kempe, V. & Donachie, A. (2011) Second language learning benefits from similarity in word endings: evidence from Russian. . . p. 1142–1172. .
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2010

Cognitive predictors of generalization of Russian grammatical gender categories

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J. & Kharkhurin, A. (2010) Cognitive predictors of generalization of Russian grammatical gender categories. . . p. 127-153. .
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Prosodic disambiguation in child-directed speech

Kempe, V., Schaeffler, S. & Thoresen, J. C. (2010) Prosodic disambiguation in child-directed speech. . . p. 204-225. .
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2009

Inconsistent handedness is linked to more successful foreign language vocabulary learning

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J. & Christman, S. D. (2009) Inconsistent handedness is linked to more successful foreign language vocabulary learning. . . p. 480-485. .
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Elicited production of case-marking in Russian and Serbian children

Kempe, V., Ševa, N., Brooks, P. J., Mironova, N., Pershukova, A. & Fedorova, O. (2009) Elicited production of case-marking in Russian and Serbian children. . . p. 147-165. .
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Child-directed speech prosody in adolescents

Kempe, V. (2009) Child-directed speech prosody in adolescents. . . p. 610-615. .
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Acquisition of gender agreement in Lithuanian

Savickiene, I., Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2009) Acquisition of gender agreement in Lithuanian. . . p. 477-494. .
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2008

Second language learning of complex inflectional systems

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2008) Second language learning of complex inflectional systems. . . p. 703-746. .
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2007

Male facial attractiveness, perceived personality, and child-directed speech

Penton-voak, I. S., Cahill, S., Pound, N., Kempe, V., Schaeffler, S. & Schaeffler, F. (2007) Male facial attractiveness, perceived personality, and child-directed speech. . . p. 253-259. .
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Diminutives facilitate word segmentation in natural speech

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J., Gillis, S. & Samson, G. (2007) Diminutives facilitate word segmentation in natural speech. . . p. 762-773. .
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Crosslinguistic evidence for the diminutive advantage

Ševa, N., Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J., Mironova, N., Pershukova, A. & Fedorova, O. (2007) Crosslinguistic evidence for the diminutive advantage. . . p. 111-131. .
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Playing with word endings

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J., Mironova, N., Pershukova, A. & Fedorova, O. (2007) Playing with word endings. . . p. 55-77. .
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2006

The role of learner and input variables in learning inflectional morphology

Brooks, P. J., Kempe, V. & Sionov, A. (2006) The role of learner and input variables in learning inflectional morphology. . . p. 185-209. .
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2005

The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian gender

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2005) The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian gender. . . p. 139-176. .
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Processing lexical semantic and syntactic information in first and second language

Rüschemeyer, S., Fiebach, C. J., Kempe, V. & Friederici, A. D. (2005) Processing lexical semantic and syntactic information in first and second language. . . p. 266-286. .
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Diminutives in child-directed speech supplement metric with distributional word segmentation cues

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J. & Gillis, S. (2005) Diminutives in child-directed speech supplement metric with distributional word segmentation cues. . . p. 145-151. .
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Exploring the influence of vocal emotion expression on communicative effectiveness

Biersack, S. & Kempe, V. (2005) Exploring the influence of vocal emotion expression on communicative effectiveness. . . p. 106-119. .
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2003

Diminutivization supports gender acquisition in Russian children

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J., Mironova, N. & Fedorova, O. (2003) Diminutivization supports gender acquisition in Russian children. . . p. 471-485. .
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2001

The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian gender

Kempe, V. & Brooks, P. J. (2001) The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian gender. . . p. 221-256. .
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How can child-directed speech facilitate the acquisition of morphology?

Kempe, V., Brooks, P. J. & Pirott, L. (2001) How can child-directed speech facilitate the acquisition of morphology?. In: Research on Child Language Acquisition: Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the International Association for the Study of Child Language. Almgren, M. (ed.), Barreña, A. (ed.), Ezeizabarrena, M. (ed.), Idiazabal, I. (ed.), MacWhinney, B. (ed.). p. 1237-1247. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
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1999

Processing of morphological and semantic cues in Russian and German

Kempe, V. & MacWhinney, B. (1999) Processing of morphological and semantic cues in Russian and German. . . p. 129-171. .
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Gender processing in native and nonnative Russian speakers

Taraban, R. & Kempe, V. (1999) Gender processing in native and nonnative Russian speakers. . . p. 119-148. .
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The role of sentence context in accessing partial knowledge of word meanings

Shore, W. J. & Kempe, V. (1999) The role of sentence context in accessing partial knowledge of word meanings. . . p. 145-163. .
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1998

The acquisition of case marking by adult learners of Russian and German

Kempe, V. & MacWhinney, B. (1998) The acquisition of case marking by adult learners of Russian and German. . . p. 543-587. .
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1996

The crosslinguistic assessment of foreign language vocabulary learning

Kempe, V. & MacWhinney, B. (1996) The crosslinguistic assessment of foreign language vocabulary learning. . . p. 149-183. .
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More Information

Funding

2016    Kempe, V. (P.I.) Leverhulme Grant # RPG-2016-093 Literacy acquisition in situations of dialect exposure (£151,059)

2015    Kempe, V. (P.I.), McLean, J. & Scott-Brown, K. (Co-P.I.s) App-lying Science to Learning? Pupil involvement in efficacy testing of technology-based educational interventions in a Primary School setting. Royal Society Partnership Grant with Mill O’Forest School in Stonehaven (£2,700)

2012     Kempe, V. (P.I.), Scott-Brown, K. (Co-P.I.) Leverhulme Grant # RPG-375 When do dialects become languages? Let the human cognitive system decide. (£67,897)

2010     Kempe, V. (P.I.), Thoresen, J. (Co-P.I.) Individual differences in non-native phoneme perception. Research Grant awarded by the Journal Language Learning. (£6,000)

2008     Kempe, V. (P.I.) Refining the analysis of acoustic indicators for the vocal expression of positive emotion. British Academy Small Grant (£7,484)

2006     Kempe, V.  (P.I.) Prosodic disambiguation in child-directed speech. Nuffield Undergraduate Research Bursary. (£1,440)

2003     Kempe, V. (P.I.) Can diminutives in child-directed speech facilitate both word segmentation and grammar learning? British Academy Small Grant (£4,600)

2001      Kempe, V. (P.I.), Mironova, N. (Co-P.I.), Brooks, P. (Co-P.I.) Does diminutive wordplay affect the timing of morphosyntactic development? NATO Collaborative Linkage Grant (£6,000)

2001     Kempe, V. (P.I.), Brooks, P. (Co-P.I.) Can diminutives aid word segmentation? Research Grant awarded by the Journal Language Learning. (£7,000)

1999     Brooks, P. (P.I.), Kempe, V. (Co-P.I.), Fedorova, O. (Co-P.I.) The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian noun morphology. NATO Collaborative Linkage Grant ($6,000)

1999     Kempe, V. (P.I.), Brooks, Co.-P.I.) The role of diminutives in Russian gender and case learning: Can child-directed speech facilitate the acquisition of inflectional morphology? Spencer Foundation, USA ($35,000) 

Esteem

Esteem

Member of the Advisory Board of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences.

Member of the Advisory Board of Studies in Second Language Learning.

Member of the Supervisory Board of the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences.

Outreach

Outreach

Applying Science to Learning - sponsored by the Royal Society https://vimeo.com/183286419

Why study Psychology? Workshop with Primary 6 and 7 from Blackness PS, Victoria Park PS and St. Joseph's RC PS at Dundee City Council Career Festival, 3. June 2015

Can we train the brain? Talk at Dundee Women in Science Festival, 18. March 2015.

Why do we often believe things that are not true? – Arduthie Primary School Science week (Primary 4, 5, 6). Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, March 2013.

Learning Languages – Is it ever too late? Inaugural Lecture. 17. April 2013.

Does it matter how we speak to our children? Talk at Café Science, Dundee, 29. April 2013.

Mummy, speak English to me! How to maintain minority languages? - Talk presented at the conference ‘Specifics and Problems of Teaching Russian in Scotland’. 5. October 2013.

Are children the better language learners? - Talk presented at the Association of Dundee University Women. 17. October 2013.

Why does our brain see things that are not there? – Arduthie Primary School Science week (Primary 4, 5, 6). Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, March 2012.

How to promote literacy acquisition in preschoolers? – staff workshop at Croft Nursery, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, 22. October 2010.

Meet the rest of the team

Mr Darren Phillips

Mr Darren Phillips

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Lecturer

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Dr Joanna Fraser

Dr Joanna Fraser

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Lecturer

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