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Dr Norbert Vanek



In October 2013 I started my appointment as a teaching fellow at the Department of Education. Before joining the University of York, I completed a PhD (2013) at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, and an MPhil (2008) at the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, both at the University of Cambridge. My doctoral research focused on temporal reference in the discourse of mono/bilingual populations and learner varieties, and in my MPhil programme I investigated sociolinguistic correlates and psycholinguistic models of code-switching. During my postgraduate studies I cooperated with Cambridge University Press (2011-2013) on developing the question section of the Cambridge Learner Corpus. Previously, I worked with Cambridge ESOL (2008-2010) to examine criterial features for second language proficiency levels within the English Profile Project. I also hold an MA in TESOL and in European studies (2003) from the University of Constantine the Philosopher in Slovakia.

My activities in the Department of Education range from MA supervisions, involvement in the Centre for Research in Language Learning and Use, to the design, assessment and delivery of lectures within the following modules:

  • Bilingualism
  • Advanced Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods
  • Topics in Second Language Acquisition
  • Planning and Communicating Research
  • English Linguistics
  • TESOL Methods

From January 2015 I also work as a Research Fellow co-funded by the Leverhulme Trust under its Early Career Grant scheme. The fellowship is tenable for 36 months to enable research on "Conceptual reorganisation in highly advanced second language learners". The project integrates multiple methods (language production, categorisation, eye-fixation, memory) to examine whether learners' fundamental temporal concepts alter with and without explicit instruction.



My research examines how language structure interacts with temporal and spatial cognition. Using a combination of established and innovative psycholinguistic techniques, I investigate the typological constraints across a range of more as well as less distantly related languages to understand the profound cognitive implications that particular linguistic systems hold for their native speakers. I adopt a crosslinguistic perspective and compare data from native speakers and second language learners to examine which aspects of temporal and spatial reference tend to be more language-specific and which are more universal.

My approach is multidisciplinary and integrates quantitative and qualitative linguistic analyses with psychological tests of memory, categorisation and attention allocation via eye-tracking. These techniques have proved beneficial in my previous explorations of the crosslinguistic contrasts in temporal segmentation, event component selection and structuring (PhD project), in event ordering (Linearization Project), in spatial conceptualisation (LangAcross Project), and also in the unaware internalisation of form-meaning connections in Spanish and English speaking adults (Implicit Learning Project).

If language influences the way we think, do our fundamental concepts change when we acquire new linguistic systems? My most recent project investigates this question with 160 advanced Chinese learners of English using multiple methods (video verbalisation, free sort, eye-fixation, non/verbal memory and similarity judgement). The focus is on grammatical aspect, which is present but different in both languages. The project examines whether learners adjust their grammatically conditioned event conceptualisation from the more result-oriented Chinese (Zhangsan falls asleep) to the more action-oriented English (Zhangsan is falling asleep) with varying degrees of explicitness in instruction. 


Selected publications

Vanek, N. & Hendriks, H. (2015) Convergence of temporal reference frames in sequential bilinguals: Temporal structuring unique to second language users. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 18(4), 753-768. DOI:
Zhu, X. & Vanek, N. (2015) Facilitative effects of learner-directed codeswitching: Evidence from Chinese learners of English. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Published online. DOI:
Vanek, N. (2013) Event linearization in advanced L2 user discourse: Evidence for language-specificity in the discourse of Czech and Hungarian learners of English. In L. Roberts, A. Ewert, M. Pawlak & M. Wrembel (eds), EUROSLA Yearbook 13, 47-80. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/eurosla.13.05van.
Vanek, N. (2012) Language-specific perspectives in reference to time in the discourse of Czech, English and Hungarian speakers. In L. Filipovic & K. M. Jaszczolt (eds) Space and Time in Languages and Cultures I: Linguistic Diversity, 135-156. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Human Cognitive Processing Series 36.

External activities


British Association for Applied Linguistics

Cambridge Bilingualism Network

European Second Language Association

International Association for Applied Linguistics


Editorial duties

Peer reviewer

International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching

Journal of Child Language

Language, Interaction and Acquisition

Language Learning

Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism

Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: + 44 (0)1904 323951