Freya Watkins

Freya Watkins

School of Psychology
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a PhD student investigating the linguistic processing of sign languages and how they are acquired by hearing individuals, using behavioural methodologies and motion capture. I am a hearing signer with intermediate BSL (Level 3) and work closely with the Deaf/signing community in the West Midlands.


  • MA Linguistics and German (1st class, distinction), University of Edinburgh
  • MSc Psychology (distinction), University of Birmingham


I previously studied German and Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, where I developed an interest in British Sign Language and sign language linguistics. I was president of the student sign language society at Edinburgh, undertook a research internship at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at UCL and also studied German Sign Language (DGS) on my year abroad. In my final year I wrote my dissertation on attention and visuospatial cognition in bimodal bilinguals, supervised by Prof Antonella Sorace and Dr Thomas Bak. After graduating I returned to Germany, where I continued to learn DGS while working as a German translator, before receiving 1+3 ESRC funding for a MSc and PhD with Dr Robin Thompson at the University of Birmingham.

Doctoral research

PhD title
Viewpoint specificity in non-native sign language acquisition
Dr Robin Thompson and Dr Linda Wheeldon


Research interests

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

Other activities

I am very interested in mental health and the high incidence of mental health problems in Deaf populations. I am a student on the Advanced Certificate in Mental Health and Deafness here at the University of Birmingham and I also work part-time on a psychiatric ward for deaf people, where I am researching linguistic indicators of deteriorating/improving mental health.

I have been co-organising the Psycholinguistics Lab meetings within the School of Psychology for over a year. I am a member of the Sign Language Linguistics Society, the International Society for Gesture Studies and the British Society for Mental Health and Deafness.

I am also interested in gender studies and was on the organising committee for the 6th Roles Gender and Sexuality conference at the University of Birmingham.


Watkins, F. & Thompson, R.L. (submitted) The relationship between sign production and sign comprehension: what handedness reveals.