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Department of Education

Viewing archives for Applied Linguistics

Athina is a Research Officer working on TalkTogether: Supporting Oral Language Development.

The project investigates children’s oral language in multilingual urban poor contexts, with an aim to develop and evaluate an intervention programme for kindergarten classes. TalkTogether is an international collaboration led by Prof. Sonali Nag and involves academic and non-academic partners in India.

Athina completed her PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge being awarded a PhD Studentship from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Before her PhD, Athina obtained a MA in Linguistics from the Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands. During her MA studies, she did an internship at the University of Amsterdam where she was involved in testing bilingual children and used the data to write her MA thesis on the occurrence of cross-linguistic influence in the acquisition of grammatical gender by Greek-Dutch bilingual children. She also worked as a student assistant for three months at the Center for Language and Speech Technology of the Radboud University of Nijmegen with her task being the preparation of a literature overview of the indicators investigated and reported in the literature to predict L2 oral proficiency, as well as, a review of the systems (manual and automatic) used to evaluate speaking proficiency. She holds a BA in Greek Philology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. During her BA, she also spent an academic year at the University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain as a student being awarded an Erasmus scholarship. Finally, she has a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and has some teaching experience with children and adults in various settings (immigrant populations, undergraduates, foreign and repatriated students).

In her previous research, she investigated age (of onset) and first language effects on the acquisition of English grammar (focusing on finiteness) by Chinese and Russian child learners in a minimal input EFL (English as a Foreign Language) context. During her current role, she is involved in various research projects within TalkTogether all focusing on shedding light on child oral language development of (Kannada-speaking) children and/or aiming to support their oral language development through interventions.

Her research interests involve child (second) language acquisition with a particular interest in the development of morphosyntax, the factors both linguistic and contextual that shape it, and the support of oral language development through classroom interventions to help children be ‘readier’ for literacy and school.


Conference Papers

  1. ‘Age in child L2 acquisition: The case of finiteness’ (In collaboration with Theodora Alexopoulou, Henriette Hendriks, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge). Paper presented at the EuroSLA 28 conference, Munster, Germany, September 5-8, 2018.
  2. ‘The acquisition of finiteness in English by Chinese and Russian speaking children: the impact of age’ (In collaboration with Theodora Alexopoulou, Henriette Hendriks, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge). Paper presented at the workshop: ‘Age effects in bilingual language acquisition’ in Poznan, Poland, March 7-8, 2019.
  3. ‘The acquisition of finiteness in English by Chinese and Russian speaking children: the impact of L1 (In collaboration with Theodora Alexopoulou, Henriette Hendriks, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge). Paper presented at the workshop: ‘Tenselessness II’ in Lisbon, Portugal, October 3-4, 2019.

Poster presentations

  1. Age in child L2 acquisition: The case of finiteness (In collaboration with Theodora Alexopoulou, Henriette Hendriks, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge). Poster presented at the Lead summer school for L2 acquisition, University of Tübingen, Germany, July 23-27, 2018.
  2. Age in child L2 acquisition: The case of finiteness (In collaboration with Theodora Alexopoulou, Henriette Hendriks, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, University of Cambridge). Poster presented at the School on Experimental and Corpus Linguistics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, September 25-27, 2018.

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Foundation programs are typically a one-year preparation course to meet the language requirement or academic requirement for bachelor or master studies in British universities. This population is a relatively under-researched learner cohort in the study-abroad literature. Phrasal verbs are “two-part verbs consisting of a lexical verb followed by a contiguous (adjacent) or non-contiguous adverbial particle” (Gardner & Davies, 2007, p. 341). Phrasal verbs are omnipresent in daily natural discourse, while they pose extraordinary difficulty for L2 learners (Gardner & Davies, 2007). This longitudinal mixed-methods study collected data from over 200 international foundation year students in the UK for one academic year, to shed light on the relationship between phrasal verb development and informal language contact. Data collection took place once per term and three times in total. Phrasal verb data were collected through standardized tests and speech samples, while L2 contact was measured via language contact questionnaire, social network surveys, and semi-structured interviews. Other confounders such as initial vocabulary knowledge and personal backgrounds were also considered. Mixed-effects modelling results showed that the overall English proficiency, the corpus frequency of phrasal verbs, and the language contact of the participants were significant predictors of their phrasal verb knowledge. This study revealed the lack of interactive L2 contact and limited phrasal verb knowledge of the Chinese foundation students in the UK and proposed some implications.

About the Speaker

Siyang Zhou is a PhD candidate at the Department of Education. Siyang has a passion for languages and is interested in how study abroad benefits the vocabulary gains of international students in the UK. She obtained a BA from Sun Yat-sen University in China and masters from the University of Sydney and the University of Cambridge, specializing in language education. She has taught English in a higher vocational college for a few years in China and has accumulated rich work experiences in the education sector. She has presented her research in a few international conferences such as BAAL, AAAL, and AILA. She was awarded the Richard Pemberton Prize in the annual conference of BAAL 2019 and she is working on publications based on her PhD thesis.

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This study investigated the association between the Manchu writing system and novice learners’ uju symbol block decoding performance. The Manchu writing system was examined on two parameters: visual complexity of uju and mapping complexity between symbol and sound. Although previous studies have shown that visual and mapping complexities were associated with word decoding, most studies were conducted on alphabetic writing systems. Thus, it remains unknown whether similar results would be found in Manchu writing system. Designed as a mixed methods study, this study randomly selected undergraduate students (n = 196) in a Chinese university, who were given Manchu uju naming tasks in Test 1 on visual complexity and Test 2 on symbol-sound mapping complexity. Moreover, the instruction on Manchu orthographic knowledge was also observed. Results of Test 1 revealed that visual complexity of uju is significantly and positively associated with participants’ decoding performance measured by error rate and reaction time. Furthermore, connected points were identified by multiple linear regression as the unique predictor for decoding accuracy, and connected points and disconnected components were identified as predictors for decoding speed. The results of Test 1 suggested that readers may use connected points to identify features in visual processing of an uju. Results of Test 2 showed that the participants’ decoding performance was not significantly different when the symbols were provided in the manipulated “mixed” and “blocked” condition, but their performance was more accurate and rapid in naming the symbol blocks with phoneme markers in the consistent one–to–one mapping than those in one-to-multiple mapping with sound. The results suggested that Manchu phoneme markers rather than uju were used for symbol block processing, which was further corroborated by the observation on Manchu orthographic knowledge instruction. Finally, this study posits that reading Manchu uju symbol blocks requires intra-symbol processing, which involves (a) at the feature level, identification and configuration of visual features into phoneme markers, and (b) at the symbol level, conversion of phoneme markers into sounds.

About the Speaker

Mark Bai Li is a final year DPhil student in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition course at the Department of Education, University of Oxford. His doctoral project investigates the cognitive process of reading the “critically endangered” Manchu language in China. Mark holds a BA in English from Dalian University of Foreign Languages, and an MSEd in TESOL from the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. He also spent one and half years doing MPhil level research on Manchu education at King’s College London. Prior to Oxford, Mark taught as a Lecturer in English in China for seven years and as a volunteer ESOL teacher in the School District of Philadelphia for one year.


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In this talk, Dr Murakami will illustrate the utility of multifactorial learner corpus research with two of their studies on the accuracy of L2 English grammatical morphemes. Drawing data from the Cambridge Learner Corpus, Murakami and Alexopoulou (2016) examined how the accuracy varies depending on a number of factors such as learners’ native language (L1), proficiency, and the specific morpheme. The study demonstrated that the acquisition order of L2 English grammatical morphemes varies across the learners’ L1 backgrounds and that L1 influence is morpheme-specific, in that some morphemes are more strongly affected by L1 than others.

While Murakami and Alexopoulou (2016) focused on accuracy differences between morphemes, it is well-known that the accuracy of morpheme use systematically varies within each morpheme as well. Murakami and Ellis (2022) investigated such within-morpheme accuracy differences. Specifically, they analysed whether morpheme accuracy in L2 writing depends on (i) availability (i.e., surface-form accuracy; e.g., asked vs requested), (ii) contingency between a surface-form and the lemma (e.g., decided vs liked), and (iii) formulaicity of the context in which the surface form occurs (e.g., since I graduated from college vs wanted a lot of). Contrary to the previous study that identified positive associations between the three distributional factors and morpheme accuracy (Guo & Ellis, 2021), our study found that only contingency is meaningfully associated with accuracy. The difference in the findings is likely to be due to the difference between the elicited imitation task used in Guo and Ellis (2021), which required the online processing of pre-determined stimuli, and free writing tasks in Murakami and Ellis (2022), in which learners decided the linguistic forms they would need.


  • Guo, R. & Ellis, N. C. (2021). Language usage and second language morphosyntax: Effects of availability, reliability, and formulaicity. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. 582259.
  • Murakami, A., & Alexopoulou, T. (2016). L1 influence on the acquisition order of English grammatical morphemes: A learner corpus study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38(3), 365–401.
  • Murakami, A., & Ellis, N. C. (2022). Effects of availability, contingency, and formulaicity on the accuracy of English grammatical morphemes in second language writing. Language Learning.

About the Speaker

Akira Murakami a Birmingham Fellow at the Department of English Language and Linguistics, University of Birmingham, as well as a Visiting Scientist at the Natural Language Understanding Team at the Center for Advanced Intelligence Project, RIKEN. His primary research interests include second language acquisition, corpus linguistics, and quantitative data analysis for applied linguistics research. Prior to joining Birmingham in 2018, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, and Tübingen.


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Children who grow up multilingual may or may not develop into multilingual readers, for a number of reasons: lack of opportunity, lack of resources, lack of time, lack of support system, etc. This talk draws on numerous research studies to explore how multilingual children experience their journey towards multiliteracy. We will explore both historical and current developments that can contribute to, and hinder, multiliteracy development, including the role of families, schools, and libraries. The talk will highlight the “River of Reading” methodology, which serves as a tool to help children chart their multiliteracy development, and illustrate how multilingual children’s “Rivers of Reading” differ from their monolingual peers. Throughout the talk, links between literacy development and identity will help us reflect on how multilingual children experience their surroundings, and how they internalise these, as part of their multilingual selves.

About the Speaker

Dr Sabine Little is a Senior Lecturer in Languages Education at the University of Sheffield. Her work focuses primarily on the links between multilingualism, identity, and belonging, with research situated in families, schools, and public spaces such as libraries, to explore children’s multilingual childhoods holistically and within context. Her work on Sheffield’s multilingual children’s library won the International Brenda Eastwood Award for Diversity and Inclusion, and her Lost Wor(l)ds project aims to support teachers in giving multilingual children the opportunity to learn whilst making use of their full linguistic repertoire.

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Speakers: Prof Joana Duarte (University of Groningen)

Abstract: Given the increasing importance of multilingualism in schools across Europe as well as dialogic interaction for pupils’ language and content learning (Duarte 2018; Rojas-Drummond 2019; Yuzlu and Dikilitas 2021), it becomes imperative to gain deeper insights into the relation between these two dimensions in education. Rather than studying them separately, we propose the use of a heuristic model of multilingual classroom interaction in which both dimensions as well as both the teacher’s and pupils’ perspectives are considered. Using data from three Dutch primary schools participating in an educational design research program aimed at stimulating the use of multiple languages through a translanguaging-based approach (García, 2009; Duarte, 2018) and dialogic interaction, we use a mixed-methods approach to demonstrate how data on discourse practices in whole class interaction can be analysed and interpreted using the heuristic model. Our data suggest that the nature of classroom interaction (i.e. tending towards more mono- or dialogic interaction) might influence the use and function of other languages in the classroom in translanguaging informed settings. The proposed model allows us to gain a better understanding of the relationship between translanguaging practices and dialogic interaction.

Bio: Joana Duarte is a full professor at the University of Amsterdam and the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and an associate professor at the Minorities & Multilingualism department of the University of Groningen. Her main research areas are on multilingual education, teachers’ professional development, equity in education, global citizenship education and didactics.

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Speaker: Dr Marketa Caravolas (Bangor University)

Abstract: With the global rise in migration and immigration, increasing numbers of children speaking diverse home languages are being schooled in a second or additional language. On average, additional language learners (ALLs) lag behind their monolingual peers in literacy skills during the primary school years. Yet, educators often lack the tools and/or the training to assess and support ALLs who may be struggling in the school language, and to differentiate between children with a temporary literacy delay due to insufficient knowledge of the school language from those who have a language-based neurocognitive disorder which places them at particular risk of poor literacy and general educational outcomes (Strand, 2021). Progress in this area awaits research to better understand the multi-causal pathways to literacy development among ALLs, and to alleviate the practical challenges for their assessment in the multilingual context. 

In this presentation, we propose a way forward based on findings from a series of direct cross-linguistic investigations of monolingual school beginners’ literacy skills (the ELDEL project). In tracking and assessing children longitudinally in five countries/languages over the Key Stage 1 years, these studies confirmed several universal cognitive predictors of individual differences in attainments and growth of word reading and spelling. We will summarize the key findings of ELDEL and will showcase the arising non-commercial, free to use assessment tool called Multilanguage Assessment Battery of Early Literacy (MABEL) as a model for reliably assessing ALL pupils’ predictive profiles in various multilingual settings. MABEL comprises the most robust of these measures in a battery of 15 directly comparable tests across six typologically distinct Indo-European languages with differing orthographies (additional language versions in development).  This battery will provide the blueprint for further test adaptations that could easily be integrated into routine school assessments of children’s home and school language proficiency and their potential literacy needs.

Bio: Marketa Caravolas is a Reader in Psychology at Bangor University. Her main research interests are in literacy development in typical populations and in groups with Specific Learning Difficulties, especially dyslexia. Much of her work includes longitudinal and cross-linguistic designs in monolingual and bilingual learners. A number of her research projects have led to the development of standarised test batteries for the assessment of children’s literacy skills in languages including English, Czech, Slovak, Spanish and Welsh. She works with researchers in the UK as well as in a number of countries in Europe and North America, and has headed up a wide variety of externally-funded, international projects pertaining to literacy development and its disorders.

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Speaker: Dr Imma Miralpeix (University of Barcelona)

Abstract: Several studies have explored the value of multimodal input for L2 learning (Vanderplank, 2016), as in this type of input information is received from different channels (i.e., there is sound, image and text). This is thought to enhance L2 acquisition (Paivio, 1986; Mayer, 2009). Given the increase of available multimodal input in society nowadays, more research has been undertaken, even if often with short videos (e.g. Peters et al., 2016) or with participants in non-dubbing countries, where exposure to audiovisual materials in the target language is a very common practice (e.g. Denmark: Muñoz et al., 2018; or Belgium: De Wilde et al., 2021).

However, not much research has been conducted in dubbing countries, where students do not usually watch television in the foreign language. In this talk, several empirical studies will be presented: first, longitudinal classroom-based investigations, where Catalan/Spanish EFL learners regularly watched subtitled TV series over an extended period of time, and we will see how extensive viewing can (or cannot) help vocabulary learning at different proficiency levels. Second, an experiment with adult participants being exposed to a completely novel language though authentic multimodal input will show what vocabulary knowledge can be extracted at first exposure. Results will be discussed in relation to previous research on the topic and to multimedia learning theories; pedagogical implications will also be considered.


De Wilde, V., Brysbaert, M., & Eyckmans, J. (2021). Young learners’ L2 English after the onset of instruction: Longitudinal development of L2 proficiency and the role of individual differences. Bilingualism, Language and Cognition, 24(3), 439-453.

Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Muñoz, C., Cadierno, T., & Casas, I. (2018). Different starting points for English language learning: A comparative study of Danish and Spanish young learners. Language Learning, 68(4), 1076-1109.

Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peters, E., Heynen, E., & Puimège, E. (2016). Learning vocabulary through audiovisual input: The differential effect of L1 subtitles and captions. System, 63, 134-148.

Vanderplank, R. (2016). Captioned media in foreign language learning and teaching. Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as tools for language learning. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Bio: Dr Imma Miralpeix is Associate Professor at the University of Barcelona, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics. Her main research interests include second language vocabulary acquisition, especially lexical development and assessment, and multilingualism. She is the author of several publications in these areas and has taken part in different funded projects on second language learning and teaching. She is also a member of Lognostics, providing up-to-date resources for L2 vocabulary researchers. She has recently investigated the potential of multimodal input for L2 vocabulary learning in EFL settings at different proficiency levels.

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Speaker: Prof Cécile De Cat and Dr Draško Kašćelan (University of Leeds)

Abstract: Bilingualism research often requires documentation of participants’ language background. In relation to child bilingualism, this is usually achieved through parental questionnaires. However, due to diversity of operationalisations across questionnaires, the resulting measures can vary widely. A recent international Delphi consensus survey (De Cat et al., 2021) has highlighted the readiness of bilingualism researchers, clinicians, and teachers to adopt common methods for the documentation of bilingual experience in order to enhance the generalisability of research findings and facilitate exchanges between research and practice. We present a new questionnaire for Quantifying Bilingual Experience (Q-BEx) in children. The creation of the tool was informed by: (1) a Delphi consensus survey on quantifying bilingualism (completed by 132 researchers, teachers and speech and language therapists from 29 countries); (2) a comprehensive review of existing language background questionnaires; (3) lessons learned from the psychometric literature; and (4) a collaborative approach to validation and consultation with relevant experts in the field. The new tool is freely available in several languages as an online questionnaire and back-end calculator. It features seven modules documenting: background information, language exposure and use, language proficiency, richness of linguistic experience, attitudes and satisfaction with child’s language, language mixing, and risk factors. The questionnaire documents long-established constructs as well as some brought to light by recent research. We present the online version of the tool by outlining the customizability options, raw measures which can be obtained, and the back-end calculator of language exposure and use, as well of richness of linguistic experience. Finally, we outline the follow-up validation steps and the ongoing co-creation of a version optimised for use in schools.

Bio: Cécile De Cat is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Leeds. Her undergraduate degree was a Licence en Philologie Romane at the Belgian UCL (Louvain-la-Neuve). After coming to the UK as a French assistant in a Durham school (thanks to a European exchange programme), she got an MA in Linguistics from the University of Durham, and then worked as a research assistant on a language acquisition project at the University of York. She moved on to do a PhD in Language Acquisition (funded by the ESRC) at the University of York. After an ESRC-funded post-doc also at the University of York, she was appointed to the University of Leeds as a Lecturer. She has been Professor of Linguistics since 2015. She is currently also Professor II at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) in Tromsø ( and she leads the Speech and Language action project group at the Centre for Applied Education Research.

Draško Kašćelan is a linguist currently working as a post-doctoral research assistant on the Q-BEx project. His previous research focused on bilingualism, cognitive skills (executive functions and the Theory of Mind), figurative language (idioms and metaphors), autistic-like traits, and autism spectrum disorders. His other areas of interest include code-switching, pragmatic language development, language impairment, and language processing.