Alex de Carvalho

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Psychology

How do children learn language?

Dr. Alex de Carvalho is a psycholinguist who studies language acquisition and language processing and the role of cognitive processes in child development and literacy attainment.

Some of the fundamental questions that Dr. de Carvalho is interested in include:

  • What are the mechanisms that young children use to learn the meaning of words?
  • How do children and adults detect and solve ambiguities during language processing?
  • How do listeners adjust their reliance on different sources of information during sentence processing? Can they be encouraged to deal flexibly with the input?
  • What kind of cognitive abilities sustain language processing and language development and the ability to read?
  • How well does a child’s ability to understand and mentally analyze spoken sentences relate to the child’s ability to read sentences and other forms of connected text?

In his work, Dr. de Carvalho employs a multidisciplinary approach, spanning the fields of education, developmental psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics. He uses a variety of methods (including eye tracking, Electroencephalography (EEG), lexical decision tasks, preferential listening, visual fixation tasks, language production tasks, and assessments of executive function skills) to investigate how spoken language processing skills are acquired and developed from infancy into adulthood. By focusing on a wide range of age groups, Dr. de Carvalho examines how people learn to integrate multiple forms of knowledge over time to process and learn language, as well as the relationship between spoken language comprehension and cognitive control skills in children’s ability to read.


Personal Website
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
Office: Room 252, Stephen A. Levin Building, 425 S University Ave



Publications can be found here. And, here is a copy of my CV as of October 2018.

Selected Publications:

  • de Carvalho, A., He, A. X., Lidz, J., & Christophe, A. (2019). Prosody and function words cue the acquisition of word meanings in 18-month-old infants. Psychological Science
  • de Carvalho, A., Dautriche, I., Lin, I., & Christophe, A. (2017). Phrasal prosody constrains syntactic analysis in toddlers. Cognition, 163(6), 67-79. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.02.018.
  • de Carvalho, A.*, Reboul, A.*, Van der Henst, J-B., Chelyus, A., Nazir, T. (2016). Scalar Implicatures: The Psychological Reality of Scales. Frontiers in Psychology. 7:1500. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01500.
  • de Carvalho, A., Dautriche, I., Christophe, A. (2016). Preschoolers use phrasal prosody online to constrain syntactic analysis. Developmental Science, 19(2), 235-250.
  • de Carvalho, A., Lidz, J., Tieu, L., Bleam, T., & Christophe, A. (2016). English-speaking preschoolers can use phrasal prosody for syntactic parsing. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 139(6), EL216-EL222