Freya Watkins

Freya Watkins

School of Psychology
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Title of PhD: The role of visual angle in sign language processing and acquisition

Freya is a PhD student investigating the linguistic processing of British Sign Language, in particularly how it is acquired by hearing individuals, using behavioural methodologies and motion capture. She is a hearing signer with intermediate BSL (Level 3) and works with the Deaf community as well as hearing BSL learners in the Midlands.


  • MA Linguistics and German (1st class, distinction), University of Edinburgh
  • MSc Psychology (distinction), University of Birmingham
  • Advanced Certificate in Mental Health & Deafness (distinction), University of Birmingham


Freya previously studied German & Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, where she developed an interest in British Sign Language and sign language linguistics. She became co-president of the student sign language society at Edinburgh, undertook a research internship at the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at UCL and also studied German Sign Language (DGS) on her year abroad. Freya wrote her undergraduate dissertation on attention and visuospatial cognition in bimodal bilinguals, supervised by Prof Antonella Sorace & Dr Thomas Bak. After graduating, she returned to Germany, continuing to learn DGS while working as a German-English translator, before receiving 1+3 ESRC funding for a MSc & PhD with Dr Robin Thompson at the University of Birmingham. Her MSc thesis was on phonological processing of dual language input in speech-sign bilinguals.

Doctoral research

PhD title
The role of visual angle in sign language processing and acquisition
Dr Robin Thompson


Research interests

Multimodal language processing, L2 sign language acquisition, bilingualism and multilingualism

Other activities

Freya co-ordinated the Psycholinguistics Lab Meetings within the School of Psychology from 2015-2018 and was a volunteer organiser for the international workshop Sign CAFÉ 1 at UoB in July 2018.

She is the main research assistant for the British Academy-funded Online Reading Research Project about web-based reading strategies in deaf and hearing teenagers. Additionally, Freya is a research assistant in Dr Robin Thompson’s M2L2 lab, collecting and coding data for a variety of sign language processing and production studies, using behavioural, eyetracking and electromyography methodologies.

Freya has also been a teaching assistant for the master’s-level courses Transferable Skills and Research Practical, and teaches the course Introduction to E-Prime.

She is a member of the Sign Language Linguistics Society, the International Society for Gesture Studies and the British Society for Mental Health & Deafness.


Watkins, F., & Thompson, R. L. (2017). The relationship between sign production and sign comprehension: what handedness reveals. Cognition164, 144-149.

Watkins, F. (2014). Access to Work Cuts Threaten Deaf People and Interpreters. Slaney Street, 6.

View all publications in research portal