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Signe Tonér

About me

PhD in general linguistics 

Speech-language pathologist


I currently teach within the preschool teacher program at Stockholm University. I have previously been involved in bachelor and master level courses in linguistics as well as courses within the speech pathology program at the Karolinska Institute. 


The aim of my thesis project Language and executive functions in Swedish preschoolers was to investigate relationships between linguistic skills and executive functions in children aged 4-6 and to examine potential effects of specified preschool interventions with regard to these skills. 

The interdisciplinary research project "Hjärnvägar i förskolan" was a collaboration between the Department of linguistics and the Department of child and youth studies at Stockholm University, funded by Swedish Research Council.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Language and executive functions in Swedish preschoolers

    2021. Signe Tonér (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    The main goals of this dissertation are to investigate the associations between language and executive functions, including selective auditory attention, in Swedish children aged 4–6, to examine possible links to factors relating to the child and his/her social environment, and to evaluate preschool interventions with regard to potential improvements in language and/or executive functions. Measures were obtained by combining results from behavioral tests, language samples in the form of narratives, parent and teacher ratings and a measure of selective auditory attention as brain activity. Additionally, previous work regarding the nature and direction of the association between language and executive functions is reviewed and discussed. Progress during preschool years in language and executive functioning development seem to go hand in hand, and a body of work has indicated that language and executive functions are closely associated, although directions of potential casual relationships are still unclear. For Swedish, preschool-aged children, little is known of the language–executive functions relationship and the extent to which these skills can be improved via pedagogical working methods or interventions. The first paper investigates the language–executive functions relationship and potential associations to background factors, and the second paper examines the same research questions in larger sample, adding a selective auditory attention measure. The third paper constitutes one of the first randomized controlled trials in the Swedish preschool context and investigates effects of two contrasting pedagogical interventions compared to business-as-usual. The fourth paper explores links between children’s spontaneous explanations of a fictional misunderstanding, their language skills and their executive functions. In line with previous work from other contexts, results confirm an association between children’s grammar skills and inhibition, including selective auditory attention. Children’s socioeconomic background is significantly related to language skills, executive functions and selective attention. The current results also suggest a female advantage for receptive vocabulary and morphosyntax and indicate that bi- and multilingual children perform lower than monolingual peers with regard to receptive vocabulary in the majority language, also when controlling for socioeconomic status. The preschool interventions did not lead to any gains in language, executive functions or selective attention compared to the control group. Further work is clearly needed to provide a solid evidence-base for Swedish preschool practices. Future studies should focus on identifying relevant mechanisms in order to enable early intervention targeting children at risk for lagging behind their peers already in preschool. Previous empirical work as well as theoretical suggestions regarding the nature and direction of the links between language and executive functions are divergent, which is related to a lack of consensus with regard to underlying theories and to problems with definitions and assessment. In this thesis, it is suggested that the association is intertwined and reciprocal, congruent with a view on development as dynamic and complex and in line with a theory of mutualism. Future work is needed to refine theories and to formulate testable hypotheses regarding the language–executive functions relationship.

    Read more about Language and executive functions in Swedish preschoolers
  • Selective Auditory Attention Associated with Language Skills but not with Executive Functions in Swedish Preschoolers

    2021. Signe Tonér, Petter Kallioinen, Francisco Lacerda. Frontiers in Psychology 12


    Associations between language and executive functions (EFs) are well-established but previous work has often focused more on EFs than on language. To further clarify the language–EF relationship, we assessed several aspects of language and EFs in 431 Swedish children aged 4–6, including selective auditory attention which was measured in an event-related potential paradigm. We also investigated potential associations to age, socioeconomic status (SES), bi-/multilingualism, sex and aspects of preschool attendance and quality. Language and EFs correlated weakly to moderately, indicating that relying on measures of vocabulary alone may overestimate the strength of the language–EF relationship. Contrary to predictions, we found no correlations between selective attention and EFs. There were however correlations between morphosyntactic accuracy and selective auditory attention which is in line with previous work and suggests a specific link between morphosyntax and the ability to suppress irrelevant stimuli. In Sweden, socioeconomic differences are rather small and preschool is universally available, but nevertheless, aspects of parental SES predicted children’s performance on all measures. Bi-/multilingual children performed lower on language also when controlling for SES, highlighting the need for interventions to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes already in preschool. A female advantage was found for both language and EFs, whereas preschool attendance and quality were not significantly related to outcome measures. Future work should include longitudinal studies of language and EF development, include children from diverse SES backgrounds and contribute toward a theoretical framework that further clarifies the language–EF relationship.

    Read more about Selective Auditory Attention Associated with Language Skills but not with Executive Functions in Swedish Preschoolers
  • Links between language and executive functions in Swedish preschool children

    2021. Signe Tonér, Tove Nilsson Gerholm. Applied Psycholinguistics 42 (1), 207-241


    Language skills and executive functions (EF) undergo rapid development during preschool years and are foundational for a wide range of life outcomes but little is known of the connections between language and EF in Swedish, typically developing children. The current pilot study included 47 mono- and multilingual children aged 4–6 and aimed at describing the relationship between language and EF and investigating potential associations to age, sex, bi-/multilingualism, socioeconomic status (SES), and aspects of preschool attendance. Measures of language and EF correlated with one another to a large extent, but also showed some differentiation, suggesting a specific link between morphosyntactic ability and inhibition. Age was a significant predictor of most but not all measures. No significant effects of sex were found, with the exception for a female advantage in nonverbal communicative behavior, assessed by a novel rating paradigm. SES did not predict language or EF, and bi- and/or multilingual children did not differ from monolingual Swedish children on language or EF measures. Findings are discussed in relation to the connection between language and EF as well as to the needs of development of reliable language, EF, and communication measures for use in the Swedish context.

    Read more about Links between language and executive functions in Swedish preschool children
  • Ge tid till goda samtal

    2018. Tove Gerholm, Signe Tonér.


    Förskolan är viktig för barns språk- och kommunikations- utveckling, särskilt för dem som inte har optimala förutsättningar. Den som har lätt för kommunikation har en fördel i livet. Genom att stötta barns samtal kan pedagogerna stärka språk och kommunikation.

    Read more about Ge tid till goda samtal

Show all publications by Signe Tonér at Stockholm University