Department of Education

Dr Elizabeth Wonnacott

Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics

Prior to coming to the Department of Education Oxford, Liz held positions as an Associate Professor in the Division of Language Sciences at UCL and an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Warwick.

She was previously at Oxford as a Junior Research Fellow housed in the Department of Experimental Psychology and Linacre College. Her degrees are in Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence (University of Edinburgh;  MA Hons) and Brain and Cognitive Sciences (University of Rochester, USA; MSc & PhD). Between her degrees, she worked briefly as Teacher of English to students of other languages.

Broadly speaking, Liz is interested in human language learning. Her research explores the extent to which this rests on input-driven, statistical learning processes, both in the context of learning a first native language, and in learning further languages in later childhood or adulthood. She is interested in learning that occurs both in naturalistic contexts and in input-limited contexts (such as the classroom), as well in the educational implications of statistical learning approaches for modern foreign language instruction. She also has an interest in the development of literacy and in language processing.

From a theoretical perspective, Liz has recently become interested in whether human language may be understood in terms of discriminative learning — a well-understood theory of learning developed in the study of animal learning. This work is funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

See also https://languagelearninglab-ox.com/

Publications
  • Dong H, Clayards M, Brown H, Wonnacott E. 2019. The effects of high versus low talker variability and
    individual aptitude on phonetic training of Mandarin lexical tones. PeerJ 7:e7191 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.7191
  • Sinkeviciute, R., Brown, H., Brekelmans, G., & Wonnacott, E. (2019) The role of input variability and learner
    age in second language vocabulary learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1-26.
  • Samara, A., Singh, D., & Wonnacott, E. (2018) Statistical learning and spelling: Evidence from an incidental
    learning experiment with children. Cognition, 182, 25-30. DOI 10.1016
  • Amridge, B., Barak, L., Wonnacott, E., Bannard, C., & Sala, G. (2018) Effects of Both Preemption and Entrenchment in the Retreat from Verb Overgeneralization Errors: Four Reanalyses, an Extended Replication, and a Meta-Analytic Synthesis. Collabra: Psychology, 4(1), 23.
  • Giannakopoulou, A., Brown, H., Clayards, M., & Wonnacott, E. (2017) High or Low? Comparing high and low-variability phonetic training in adult and child second language learners. PeerJ 5:e3209; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3209
  • Wonnacott, E., Brown, H., & Nation, K. (2017) Skewing the evidence: The effect of input structure on child
    and adult learning of lexically-based patterns in an artificial language. Journal of Memory and Language, 95, 46-48. 10.1016/j.jml.2017.01.005 Rcode data
  • Samara, A. Smith, K., Brown, H., & Wonnacott, E. (2017) Acquiring variation in an artificial language:
    children and adults are sensitive to socially-conditioned linguistic variation. Cognitive Psychology, 94, 85-114
  • Smith, K., Perfors, A., Fehér, O., Samara, A., Swoboda, K., & Wonnacott, E. (2017) Language learning,
    language use and the evolution of linguistic variation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 372(1711), 20160051.
  • Fehér, O., Wonnacott, E., & Smith, K. (2016) Structural priming in artificial languages and the regularisation
    of unpredictable variation. Journal of Memory and Language. 91, 158–180.
  • Wonnacott, E., Joseph, H. S. S. L., Adelman, J. S. and Nation, K. (2016) Is children’s reading “good
    enough”? Links between online processing and comprehension as children read syntactically ambiguous sentences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69 (5). Pp. 855-879.
  • Joseph, H. S., Wonnacott, E., Forbes, P., & Nation, K. (2014) Becoming a written word: Eye movements
    reveal order of acquisition effects following incidental exposure to new words during silent reading. Cognition, 133(1), 238-248.
  • Wonnacott, E. (2013) Statistical Mechanisms in Language Acquisition. In P. Binder & K. Smith (eds.). The
    Language Phenomenon, Springer.
  • Wonnacott, E., Boyd, J.K, Thomson. J.J., & Goldberg, A.E. (2012) Input effects on the acquisition of a
    novel phrasal construction in 5 year olds. Journal of Memory and Language, 66, 458-478.
  • Wonnacott, E. (2011) Balancing generalization and lexical conservatism: An artificial language study with
    child learners. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 1-14.
  • Perfors, A. & Wonnacott, E. (2011) Bayesian modelling of sources of constraint in language acquisition. In:
    Arnon, Inbal and Clarke, Eve V., (eds.) Experience, variation and generalization : learning a first language. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: John Benjamins , pp. 277-294
  • Smith, K., & Wonnacott, E. (2010) Eliminating unpredictable variation through iterated learning. Cognition,
    116, 444-449.
  • Perfors, A., Tenenbaum, J.B., & Wonnacott, E. (2010) Variability, negative evidence, and the acquisition of
    verb argument constructions. Journal of Child Language, 37, 607-642.
  • Wonnacott, E., Newport, E.L., & Tanenhaus, M.K. (2008) Acquiring and processing verb argument
    structure: Distributional learning in a miniature language. Cognitive Psychology, 56, 165-209.
  • Wonnacott, E., & Watson, G. (2008) Acoustic emphasis in four year olds. Cognition, 107, 1093-101.
Doctoral Applications

Elizabeth would welcome informal contacts from prospective doctoral students interested in the following topics:

  • Input driven/statistical learning approaches to first and second language learning
  • Language learning in the primary school years
  • Differences between implicit and explicit language learning, and educational implications
  • Age differences in language learning
  • Discriminative linguistics
  • Phonetic training in children and adults
  • Computational modelling of language learning

  • Subjects Taught

    MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition

    MSc in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching

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