Leah Roberts
Leader, Centre for Research in Language Learning and Use



Before joining the Department of Education in September 2011, I spent eight years as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in the Language Acquisition Group, firstly on a project funded by the Dutch Science Foundation on acquisition and processing in bilingual and multilingual speakers, then later in project on acquisition and information structure. Prior to that, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Essex in the Department of Languages and Linguistics on a Leverhulme-funded project comparing real-time language processing of child and adult learners.

I obtained my first degree from the University of East London in 1997 in Linguistics with Education Studies, and did my post-graduate studies at the University of Essex, obtaining an MA in Language Acquisition in 1999 and a PhD on syntactic processing in second language learners in in 2003.

The focus of my research is in second language learning and processing at the word-, sentence- and discourse-levels. Recent research topics include what adult and child learners can acquire (in and out of the classroom environment) after only a small amount of exposure to a brand new language, and at the other end of the proficiency-continuum, how two languages interact in the mind of functionally bilingual speakers during real-time language comprehension.

*** I am interested in supervising research students in any of the following areas: second language/bilingual grammatical/discourse processing and acquisition, cross-linguistic influences in SLA, classroom intervention studies on language learning of grammar/discourse, naturalistic and/or classroom-based first exposure to a new language ***

I teach on the following MA modules in the department:

  • Cross-linguistic Influences in Second Language Acquisition
  • Developmental Psycholinguistics
  • Research Methods for Applied Linguistics
  • Planning and Communicating Research



  • Real-time processing and links to acquisition at the sentence- and discourse-levels
  • First stages of language learning (naturalistic and classroom)
  • Cross-linguistic influences in second language learning, specifically on the processing and acquisition of referential expressions (e.g. pronouns) in discourse and temporal anaphora (tense/aspect markers)

Research group(s)

  • Centre for Language Learning Research


As well as collaborating with many colleagues within the Department of Education and other departments at the University of York, my collaborators include:

  • Christine Dimroth, University of Osnabruck
  • Marianne Gullberg, Lund University
  • Sarah Liszka, University of Greenwich
  • Josje Verhagen, Utrecht University
  • Marcel Bastiaanssen, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • Carrie Jackson, Penn State University
  • Janet van Hell, Penn State University
  • Roger van Gompel, Dundee University
  • Petra Schumacher, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • Juhani Jarvikivi, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Miriam Ellert, Univeristy of Göttingen
  • Nigel Duffield, University of Sheffield
  • Ayumi Matsuo, University of Sheffield

External activities


  • Steering committee member: Varieties in iInitial Learners in Language Acquisition (VILLA); European Second Language Association (EUROSLA)

Editorial duties

I am Managing Editor of the EUROSLA Yearbook and Co-Editor of the journal International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (IRAL). I am on the editorial boards of Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, the EUROSLA Monograph Series, and Theory and Practice in Language Studies (TPLS).


Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323450