Heather Marsden
Senior Lecturer



Heather Marsden works primarily in second language (L2) acquisition, focussing on the L2 acquisition of phenomena at the syntax–semantics interface, with a special interest in the L2 acquisition of Japanese and other East Asian languages.

She obtained her first degree in Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge, and a Diploma in Translation (Japanese to English) from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She worked as a translator, a language teacher, and a language teaching materials editor, before beginning her academic career in Linguistics with an MA and PhD at the University of Durham.


  • University of Cambridge
    BA Japanese Studies
  • University of Durham
    MA Linguistics
  • University of Durham
    PhD Linguistics (2004)
  • Newcastle University
    ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2004 - 2006)
  • University of York
    Lecturer (2007 - )

Departmental roles

  • Chair of Graduate School Board



My research investigates multilingual language acquisition from the perspective of generative linguistic theory. I am particularly interested in the second (or non-native) language (L2) acquisition of linguistic structure at the interfaces of syntax with semantics and discourse, and in the role of input in shaping acquisition. I use psycholinguistic methods to investigate questions such as the following:

  1. How does the linguistic structure of a previously acquired language affect acquisition in a subsequent language (whether the previous language is a "native" language or a "second", "third", etc. language)?
  2. How do L2 learners acquire linguistic knowledge for which there is no evidence in the input?
  3. How does the content of grammar instruction affect acquisition of linguistic structure?

I am also interested in research that integrates L2 acquisition theory and language teaching practice, both at the level of collaborative research and at the level of knowledge exchange. I am particularly interested in the L2 acquisition of East Asian languages, and of languages commonly taught at secondary level in the UK (Spanish, German and French).


Research group(s)

  • Leeds-Sheffield-York Second Language Acquisition Group

External activities


  • Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism, University of Reading: Associate member
  • Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB): Member
  • Association for Language Learning (ALL): Member

Invited talks and conferences

  • Apr 2013. Applying generative SLA to the language classroom. Invited workshop at Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition (GASLA), University of Florida. (with K.-H. Gil and M. Whong).
  • Apr 2013. Exploring second language judgement task data using ANOVA: two case studies. Statistics for Linguists Workshop Series, University of Sheffield.
  • Feb 2013. A feature-based approach to Korean, Chinese, and English existential quantifiers in second language acquisition. East Asian Linguistics Seminar, University of Oxford.
  • Jun 2012. Second language acquisition: different traditions, shared aims. SLA Workshop Series, Newcastle University. (with K.-H. Gil and M. Whong).
  • Feb 2011. Existential quantifiers and polarity in L2 Interlanguage: applying the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis. Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge. (with K.-H. Gil)
  • Oct 2010. A Feature Reassembly approach to L2 knowledge of existential quantifiers. FLARE Center, University of Iowa.
  • Oct 2008. L2 acquisition of ‘anyone’ by Korean-speaking learners of English. University of Leeds. (with K.-H. Gil).

Contact details

Heather Marsden
Senior Lecturer
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
Vanbrugh College C Block
Room : V/C/217

Tel: (0)1904 323610