Accessibility statement

Bernadette Plunkett
Senior Lecturer (retired)



Dr. Bernadette Plunkett is a former Senior Lecturer in the Department of Language and Linguistics, University of York.

Bernadette took a BA in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London followed by an MA in Linguistics at University College London.

Before embarking on doctoral research Bernadette lived in Algeria where she stayed for five years, teaching in the Universities of Annaba and Constantine. After this she moved to the USA where she did a PhD in theoretical syntax at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst working under Edwin Williams, David Pesetsky and Peggy Speas. Her thesis was entitled 'Specifiers and Subject Positions'.

Bernadette returned to the UK in late 1991, doing short teaching stints in the Universities of Wales, Bangor and the University of Central England in Birmingham before coming to York in 1993, shortly after her PhD graduation.

Bernadette started out studying French at University but abandoned French in favour of Linguistics. Her thesis was on English and Arabic Syntax but while working on it she had a child and became interested in Language Acquisition. She integrated her previous interest in French when she came to York where she originally taught French Linguistics as well as Syntax and Language Acquisition.


Senior Lecturer University of York
PhD University of Massachusetts
MA University College, London
BA School of Oriental and African Studies, London



Bernadette's main interests lie in first language acquisition and syntactic analysis within the Minimalist approach to Syntax. She works primarily on spoken French, with particular interests in the syntax of Wh-constructions and the issue of optionality in Minimalism. She is also interested in micro-parametric variation, especially dialectal variation in French. She has recently begun to work on Arabic acquisition.


Over the last couple of years Bernadette has been carrying out a series of experiments testing the comprehension of subject and object wh-questions with nursery-aged native French-speaking children in France and Belgium. French exhibits a large array of syntactic variation in terms of the syntactic structures associated with interrogatives. This makes it an interesting language in which to study the acquisition of questions.

At the moment Bernadette is running a pilot with a colleague in a Kuwaiti university testing the acquisition of subject-and object wh-questions in Kuwaiti Arabic, which like French, makes use of optional wh-movement and contains questions which are structurally ambiguous between subject and object interpretations.

Past projects

The York Corpus of Child French was collected under Bernadette's direction for an ESRC-funded project (R000 22 1972) on the Acquisition of Wh-questions. It consists of data from three young French-speaking children from different areas of the French speaking world, Canada, Belgium and France. ISBN 1-59642-087-1

Orthographic transcripts are available via CHILDES but the sound files have been digitized and the department hosts a version of the corpus with links to these files. Researchers wishing to access digital sound files from these corpora may do so only after completing an ethical release form, available here in French and English. Please contact me Bernadette by email if you wish to access this version of the corpus.

Research group(s)


  • Sami al-Resaini, who is working on the L2 status of Standard Arabic for native speakers of Egyptian, Gulf and Levantine Arabic dialects
  • Ruwayshid Alruwaili

Bernadette has supervised PhDs on numerous topics related to French Syntax, French Acquisition, Arabic Syntax, English Syntax, Hiberno-English Syntax, Bilingual Acquisition of English and Mandarin Chinese, including the following:

Placeholder mugshot

Contact details

Dr Bernadette Plunkett
Senior Lecturer (retired)
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
University of York
YO10 5DD