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Professor Kate Cain

Professor Kate Cain


Fylde College
Lancaster University
United Kingdom

+44 (0)1524 593990

Research Interests

My research concerns the different cognitive and language-related skills that underpin the development of reading and listening comprehension, both in atypical and typical populations. To date, this work has identified several higher-level skill weaknesses that may be causally linked to poor comprehension, including the ability to generate inferences, knowledge and use of reading strategies, and the ability to construct coherent and integrated narratives. Recent work has confirmed that these skills predict reading comprehension development between 8 to 11 years.

Current research projects

  • The language bases of reading comprehension (funded by IES), more details about LARRC here:
  • The influence of morphological awareness on learning to read in English and Chinese (funded by ESRC and the RGC Hong Kong)
  • Language and literacy profiles of children with rolandic epilepsy (funded by The Waterloo Foundation)
  • Developing reading comprehension in the classroom (funded by the British Academy)
  • Use of corpus methods to investigate the language environment of typically and atypically developing children (funded by ESRC), for more details about the Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science see here:
  • Opportunities for bilingualism in preschool and school-aged children with developmental disabilities (funded by SSHRC)


External Roles

I am the Editor in Chief of Scientific Studies of Reading, the journal of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading.

Kate Cain's Publications

In Press















Kate Cain's Projects


CASS is a Centre designed to bring a new method in the study of language – the corpus approach – to a range of social sciences. In doing it provides an insight into the use and manipulation of language in society in a host of areas of pressing concern, including climate change, hate crime and education. By providing fresh perspectives in such problems, we are helping to develop new approaches to challenging such practices as hate speech both in terms of raising awareness and of informing policy makers and other stakeholders of how such language may be used to wound and offend.



The Language Bases of Reading Comprehension

Cain, K., Justice, L., Catts, H., Hogan, T. & Gray, S.



A feasibility and pilot study on the exploitation of the Child Language Survey

This project is a feasibility and pilot study on the exploitation of the Child Language Survey. It is led by a cross-faculty team including Katie Alcock and Kate Cain (Psychology), Andrew Hardie and Sebastian Hoffmann (LAEL) and Paul Rayson (Computing). The RA on the project is Nicola Pooley (Psychology/LAEL).

Background: The Child Language Survey

In the 1960s, the Nuffield Foundation funded the Child Language Survey (CLS), a project which gathered a vast collection of data on child language from the ages of about 8 to about 15.

Consisting of transcripts of child language, both written and spoken, collected from a number of schools around the UK, this data was published in the late 1960s. Its extent has been estimated as a million words (of which 80% was spoken, 20% written).

While some university libraries possess copies of the transcript booklets, the CLS has long been unexploited, despite its potential value, because it is not in the digital format crucial to modern large-scale text analysis.

Research programme

In this pilot project, we will digitise a selection of the CLS data (both spoken and written, in the former case including audio recordings)

create a comparable modern-day sample of data from the same or equivalent schools in London and Leeds

investigate the use of this data in studying children's linguistic variability

We will investigate the evidence in the data for the following three skills on the part of the children:

Planning the text: We will compare the coherence and cohesion of written narratives. These measures will also be analysed in relation to measures of fluency (text generation measures).

Generating the content: We will consider meaning-based dimensions of language (vocabulary and the development of ideas) and rule-based dimensions (sentence structure) within each modality. Complexity and diversity will be examined.

Transcribing ideas into written language: Spelling ability and writing conventions will be analysed. Children can also appear to be good or poor spellers by their choice of easy or hard words to spell in their written compositions, so spelling success will also be measurable in terms of written word frequency and length.

Kate Cain's Activities


Scientific Studies of Reading

Professor Kate Cain (Editor), 1/03/201228/02/2015

Activity: Editorial work or peer review of publicationsEditorial activity