Grammatical development and real-time processing in the L2

Supervisor: Professor Leah Roberts

A) Rationale for the project

There is a large amount of research on L2 grammatical development but very little relating this to real time processing of the input in the target language, but it is clear that processing language with developing knowledge must somehow push forward linguistic knowledge. The project would take a range of grammatical phenomena (e.g., tense-aspect, pronominals, gender and number agreement), and using a mix of traditional SLA methods (judgement tasks) and psycholinguistic methods (eye-tracking, EEG), chart developing linguistic knowledge with different participant groups (beginning learners/less-literate learners, for instance) in a longitudinal design.

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

Roberts, L., González Alonso , J., Pliatsikas , C., & Rothman, J. (2018). Evidence from neurolinguistic methodologies: Can it actually inform linguistic/ language acquisition theories and translate to evidence-based applications? Second Language Research, 34(1), 125-143. DOI: 10.1177/0267658316644010

Roberts, L., & Liszka, S. (2013). Processing tense/aspect-agreement violations on-line in the second language: a self-paced reading study with French and German L2 learners of English. Second Language Research, 29(4), 413–439. DOI: 10.1177/0267658313503171

C) Research aims / questions

The aim of the research will be to examine in detail different levels of grammatical knowledge in the L2 as it develops over time, and thus to inform transition theories of L2 processing. 

D) Methods

Combined paper-and-pencil tasks (e.g., judgments), production tasks (e.g., story-telling), and psycholinguistic methods (e.g., eye-tracking during reading, visual world eye-tracking, EEG).

E) Skills and opportunities you could gain

You will gain critical appreciation of the fields of SLA and parsing, and expertise in a range of cutting-edge psycholinguistic methods.