Tove Gerholm

Tove Nilsson Gerholm

Lektor, Docent

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Linguistics
Telephone 08-16 23 39
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 C, plan 2-3
Room C 368
Postal address Institutionen för lingvistik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am currently engaged in the following projects: 

Revisiting the bases of language acquisition (Swedish Research Council, 2019-2022; to be continued...)

Enhancing preschool children's attention, language, and communication skills: An interdisciplinary study of socioemotional learning and computerized attention training (Swedish Research Council, 2015-2018)

Modelling infant language acquistion from parent-child interaction: identifying, testing, and simulating components and consequences of speech and gestures (Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, 2013-2018





My research interest is language development, pragmatics and in particular pragmatic development; non-verbal communication; emotive expressions and the relation between these expressions and spoken language. More specifically I’m interested in how verbal and nonverbal communication is intertwined as the child, through interaction with others, acquire language. Other research interest concerning language development are

  • similarities and differences between auditory and visual perception
  • gestural development
  • verbal and nonverbal emotive expressions
  • cultural/individual features


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Tove Gerholm (et al.). BMC Psychology 6


    During the preschool years, children develop abilities and skills in areas crucial for later success in life. These abilities include language, executive functions, attention, and socioemotional skills. The pedagogical methods used in preschools hold the potential to enhance these abilities, but our knowledge of which pedagogical practices aid which abilities, and for which children, is limited. The aim of this paper is to describe an intervention study designed to evaluate and compare two pedagogical methodologies in terms of their effect on the above-mentioned skills in Swedish preschool children.


    The study is a randomized control trial (RCT) where two pedagogical methodologies were tested to evaluate how they enhanced children’s language, executive functions and attention, socioemotional skills, and early maths skills during an intensive 6-week intervention. Eighteen preschools including 28 units and 432 children were enrolled in a municipality close to Stockholm, Sweden. The children were between 4;0 and 6;0 years old and each preschool unit was randomly assigned to either of the interventions or to the control group. Background information on all children was collected via questionnaires completed by parents and preschools. Pre- and post-intervention testing consisted of a test battery including tests on language, executive functions, selective auditive attention, socioemotional skills and early maths skills. The interventions consisted of 6 weeks of intensive practice of either a socioemotional and material learning paradigm (SEMLA), for which group-based activities and interactional structures were the main focus, or an individual, digitally implemented attention and math training paradigm, which also included a set of self-regulation practices (DIL). All preschools were evaluated with the ECERS-3.


    If this intervention study shows evidence of a difference between group-based learning paradigms and individual training of specific skills in terms of enhancing children’s abilities in fundamental areas like language, executive functions and attention, socioemotional skills and early math, this will have big impact on the preschool agenda in the future. The potential for different pedagogical methodologies to have different impacts on children of different ages and with different backgrounds invites a wider discussion within the field of how to develop a preschool curriculum suited for all children.

  • 2018. Sofia J. Frankenberg (et al.). Journal of Cognition and Development

    Within the field of developmental science, there is a general agreement of the need to work together across academic disciplinary boundaries in order to advance the understandings of how to optimize child development and learning. However, experience also shows that such collaborations may be challenging. This paper reports on the experiences of bidirectional collaboration between researchers in a multidisciplinary research team and between researchers and stakeholders, in the first randomized controlled trial in Swedish preschool. The objective of the trial was to investigate the effects of two pedagogical learning strategies evaluating language, communication, attention, executive functions and early math. The interdisciplinary team includes researchers from early childhood education, linguistics, developmental psychology and cognitive neuro science. Educational researchers and theorists within the field of early childhood education in Sweden have during the last two decades mainly undertaken small-scale qualitative praxis-oriented and participative research. There is a widespread skepticism with regards to some of the core principles in controlled intervention methodologies, including a strong resistance towards individual testing of children. Consequently unanticipated disagreements and conflicts arose within the research team, as RCT methodology requires the measurement of effects pre and post the intervention. The aim of this article is to discuss the conditions for bidirectional collaboration both between researchers and stakeholders and between researchers in the research team. The findings illustrate strategies and negotiations that emerged in order to address ontological and epistemological controversies and disagreements. These include (a) the negotiation of research ethics, (b) making divergences visible and learning from each other, (c) using a multi-epistemological and methodological approach as a complement to the RCT design and (d) the negotiation of research problems that are shared between educators and researchers.

  • 2018. Tove Gerholm.
  • 2018. Tove Gerholm. Text & Talk 38 (2), 137-165

    The aim of this paper is to highlight and describe the forms of verbal emotive utterances that appeared in a longitudinal corpus of 11 Swedish children interacting with parents, siblings and friends. The children were in the ages 0;9 to 5;10 and were recorded four to six times during a two-year period. The verbal emotive expressions of the material are divided into the categories Descriptive versus Accompanying utterances. Descriptive utterances are emotive mainly from semantic conventions, whereas Accompanying utterances are emotive due to prosodic and contextual traits. The categories are illustrated and related to conventions, language development and cognitive growth. By classifying and labeling verbal expressions as emotive in different ways, it is argued that we can gain a better understanding of how language is used when intertwined with emotions, but also that we access a way to compare and investigate emotive language in a more thorough manner.

  • 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.

  • 2019. Tove Gerholm (et al.). BMC Psychology 7


    During the preschool years, children’s development of skills like language and communication, executive functions, and socioemotional comprehension undergo dramatic development. Still, our knowledge of how these skills are enhanced is limited. The preschool contexts constitute a well-suited arena for investigating these skills and hold the potential for giving children an equal opportunity preparing for the school years to come. The present study compared two pedagogical methods in the Swedish preschool context as to their effect on language and communication, executive functions, socioemotional comprehension, and early math. The study targeted children in the age span four-to-six-year-old, with an additional focus on these children’s backgrounds in terms of socioeconomic status, age, gender, number of languages, time spent at preschool, and preschool start. An additional goal of the study was to add to prior research by aiming at disentangling the relationship between the investigated variables.


    The study constitutes a randomized controlled trial including 18 preschools and 29 preschool units, with a total of 431 children, and 98 teachers. The interventions lasted for 6 weeks, preceded by pre-testing and followed by post-testing of the children. Randomization was conducted on the level of preschool unit, to either of the two interventions or to control. The interventions consisted of a socioemotional and material learning paradigm (SEMLA) and a digitally implemented attention and math training paradigm (DIL). The preschools were further evaluated with ECERS-3. The main analysis was a series of univariate mixed regression models, where the nested structure of individuals, preschool units and preschools were modeled using random variables.


    The result of the intervention shows that neither of the two intervention paradigms had measurable effects on the targeted skills. However, there were results as to the follow-up questions, such as executive functions predicting all other variables (language and communication, socioemotional comprehension, and math). Background variables were related to each other in patterns congruent with earlier findings, such as socioeconomic status predicting outcome measures across the board. The results are discussed in relation to intervention fidelity, length of intervention, preschool quality, and the impact of background variables on children’s developmental trajectories and life prospects.

Show all publications by Tove Nilsson Gerholm at Stockholm University

Last updated: May 14, 2020

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