Judith Johnston


Professor Emerita

B.A., M.A. (Speech Pathology, Stanford University)
Ph.D. (Psychology, University of California, Berkeley)


Phone: (604) 822-6005, office
Fax: (604) 822-6569, office
E-mail: jrj@audiospeech.ubc.ca


Dr. Johnston’s scholarly interests centre on the developmental relationships between language and cognition. This focus grew out of her six years as an SLP at the Institute for Childhood Aphasia at the Stanford Medical School. Convinced that the then new field of Child Language was pertinent to clinical problems, she returned to university for advanced study, and ultimately a second career. Much of Dr. Johnston’s initial research was designed to demonstrate that children who appear to have “specific” language impairments actually show cognitive processing limitations as well. More recently she has been exploring the consequences of language impairment for cognitive growth and problem solving. More than 80 articles and book chapters have reported on these investigations and, in 2008, she received a lifetime achievement award for research from colleagues at the Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders for her contributions to the understanding of developmental language disorder. In addition to her research achievements, Dr. Johnston is a committed teacher who has won a number of major awards, including a 2003 Canadian 3M Teaching Fellowship.


Dr. Johnston no longer teaches courses in the school. She does, however, serve on a limited number of MSc thesis committees and supervises her continuing doctoral student.

Research Interests

Dr. Johnston is currently exploring the use of local norms and language sample methodology to identify language impaired children in multicultural and multilingual contexts. Specific projects include:

  • A SALT database designed to be used with bilingual Chinese English speakers who have just completed the first two years of school in English
  • SALT databases in four aboriginal communities documenting the language of four-year-old children who are expected by their community to “do just fine” in school.
  • An investigation of the feasibility of using salt variables for measuring progress over time, given the diversity in growth curve shapes for various language patterns.

Dr. Johnston is also a Research Associate Emerita of the: Child Language Lab

Select Publications

Recent Publications and Presentations


Johnston, J. (2006)  Thinking about child language:Research to Practice . Eau Claire: Thinking Publications

Refereed Publications (Authors in bold are students supervised by Johnston)

Peralejo, J., Meranda, P. Bopp, K. & Johnston, J. (submitted for review) Early vocabulary development in children with autism.

Charest, M & Johnston J (accepted with revision) Processing models and their implications for practice.

Johnston, J . (2008) Narrative: 25 years later. Topics in Language Disorders

Johnston, J (2007)  Language assessment with children who are learning English,  Language and Literacy Encyclopaedia. Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network.  Available at: //literacyencyclopedia.ca/index.php?fa=items.show&topicId=39

Simmons, N. & Johnston, J.  (2007)  Cross-cultural differences in beliefs and practices that affect the language spoken to children: mothers with Indian and Western heritage. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders,

Acarlar, F. & Johnston, J. (2006)  Computer-based analysis of Turkish child language:  Clinical and research applications,  Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders, 4, 78-94

Book Chapters and  On-line Journals

Acarlar, F. & Johnston, J (in press)  Adapting SALT for clinical use in Turkish,  In S. Topbas & M. Yavas, Eds. Communication disorders in Turkish in monolingual and multilinual settings.

Johnston, J (2009)  Fast-Forword – Again. Vibrations, 2.

Johnston, J (2008) It’s Howdy Doody Time. Published on line at www.speechpathology.com.

Refereed Presentations

Johnston, J. (2009)  Interpreting longitudinal SALT data. Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, Madison, June.

Acarlar, F. & Johnston, J (2009) Cognitive Processing Effects in Language Learning: Evidence from
Atypical Children Learning Turkish, Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, April.

Cherest, M., Johnston, J. (2008) Cognitive processing effects on children’s messages about object attributes.. Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, June

Peralejo, J.,& Johnston, J. (2008) A longitudinal study of lexical development in children with ASD . Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, June  (abstract)

Cherest­, M & Johnston, J (2007) Morphological errors by children learning English as a second language: processing demands and language proficiency. Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, June  (abstract)

Colozzo, P., Garcia, R., Curran, M., Gillam, R. & Johnston, J. (2006) Narrative assessment in SLI: exploring interactions between content and form.  Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders, University of Wisconsin, Madison, June (abstract).