“Nominal ellipsis in L2 Spanish: syntactic and pragmatic constraints”

The Interface Hypothesis (Sorace 2011) states that interfaces between internal modules of the grammar and external modules are problematic for L2 learners. We report on an experiment that examines noun ellipsis in Spanish, an area of interface between morphosyntax and information structure. Our questions are the following: (a) do advanced L2 speakers perform in a way consistent with knowledge of the syntactic restrictions that apply to noun drop? (b) do advanced L2 speakers perform in a way consistent with knowledge of the information structure restrictions regarding noun drop? (c) is there a difference in performance between French and English L1 speakers?

Spanish nominal ellipsis exhibits syntactic constraints including strict restrictions on the type of determiner that can appear in the remnant (el azul ‘the blue one’, *el con rayas ‘the one with stripes). French allows noun drop but is more restrictive regarding the type of remnant possible. English requires an obligatory overt pronoun or possessive.

Information structure is critical in the licensing of noun drop (Braver 2009; Eguren 2010) in most languages. Noun ellipsis is only possible if the ellipsis site has contrastive focus (‘This spicy sauce is delicious. What did you put in it? #I put peppers in the spicy one).

The present paper investigates whether proficient speakers of L2 Spanish are able to perceive these subtle constraints on noun drop. Two groups, L1 French (n=15) and L1 English (n=20) completed three tasks: (a) a production question-answer task based on a series of pictures (28 pictures, 18 target) eliciting different types of remnant; (b) a grammaticality judgment task consisting of 60 sentences that included grammatical and ungrammatical remnants, with different types of determiner; and (c), an acceptability judgment task that used questions and answers, 9 in which the gap referred to a contrastively focused element, 9 an unfocused one (therefore infelicitous) and 9 distracters.

People with depression use language differently – here’s how to spot it

The ‘language of depression’ can be spotted using computer analysis which looks for patterns of words used by those who are suffering from the disorder, explains PhD researcher Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi in a new post for The Conversation.

Kurt Cobain by Maia Valenzuela/Flickr, CC BY-SA

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

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Cross-talk between language and executive control in neurodegenerative diseases


CeLM Seminar


Cross-talk between language and executive control in neurodegenerative diseases

 by   Marco Calabria (Center for Brain and Cognition, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain, Barcelona)

Date                     Tues 6th March 2018

Time                     16h15 – 17h15

Venue                  Edith Morley 124

The control mechanisms that supervise the orchestration of the linguistic processes seem to be related to the executive control system. In the context of bilingualism, the interaction between control and linguistic processes is especially apparent as bilinguals need to avoid the potential interference from the irrelevant language. Despite the research is now providing more and more evidence on the cross-talk of these two domains, it remains unclear the nature of the underlying common mechanisms. In my talk I will try to show how the research with bilingual speakers with neurodegenerative diseases may contribute to the debate on the ‘domain-specific’ vs. ‘domain-general’ nature of the control mechanisms. I will show evidence of associations vs. dissociations of deficits from single-case and group studies of bilingual patients with  Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease to define a more comprehensive framework that includes sub-components of processes. Finally, the potential implications of the non-linguistic control will be also discussed for bilingual aphasia.







“People who learn German like shouting because that’s what Germans do”


CeLM Seminar


“People who learn German like shouting because that’s what Germans do”


by           Heike Krüsemann (University of Reading)


Date                     Tues 9th January 2018

Time                     16h15 – 17h15

Venue                  Palmer G04


This paper is based on a mixed methods PhD project which explored how German is conceptualised and represented in UK school settings and the press, and investigated the relationship between discourses around German, learner motivation and uptake of German in UK secondary schools. The participants of the study were 13-15 year old German learners from a range of UK secondary schools who had all recently made a decision regarding their future German-learning, as well as German teachers and head teachers. Underpinned by a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework, the research instruments (learner questionnaires and focus groups) were designed to probe students’ beliefs and attitudes through metaphor elicitation as well as more traditional Likert-type items. The learner data were coded into framing categories before the results were related to both German-continuers’ and German-droppers’ macro-context, such as their socio-economic background. Adolescent German-learners’ discourses around German were then compared those of teachers and head teachers (elicited through interviews), and with wider discourses currently in circulation. For this purpose, a specialised corpus of 40.000+ articles on German, the Germans and Germany from a range of UK national newspapers was compiled, and methods from the field of corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS) employed for its analysis. Through its exploration of the relationship between public linguistic patterns around German, the Germans and Germany with those found in grassroots discourses by key players (learners and teachers) in school settings, the study links grassroots and societal attitudes towards German with questions about the future of German-learning in UK secondary schools.


Heike Krüsemann | Research Assistant and PhD Researcher | University of Reading, Institute of Education, London Road Campus, building L33 room 115, 4 Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX | + 44(0) 118 378 2645 | h.kruesemann@reading.ac.uk | http://germanintheuk.com | https://twitter.com/HeikeKruesemann





CeLM Seminar – ‘ Speaking foreign languages from the heart ‘

 by           Jon Andoni Duñabeitia (BCBL)


Date                     Tues 14th November 2017

Time                     16h15 – 17h15

Venue                  Edith Morley 127

Native languages are typically acquired in emotionally neutral academic environments. As a consequence of this difference, it has been suggested that bilinguals’ emotional reactivity in foreign language contexts is reduced as compared to native language contexts. In this talk I will present different studies that demonstrate how pervasive foreign language effects can be and how they can alter seemingly automatic responses that are of clear importance in our daily life. I will also discuss some of the limits of these effects and I’ll provide some ideas to counteract these effects by adopting new educational approaches in foreign language teaching.Griswlod, A. (2016). http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/for-children-with-autism-multiple-languages-may-be-a-boon/

Workshop: Language impairment in bilingual children

This free event organised by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) will bring together researchers and practitioners from France, the UK, and the USA who work with bilingual children with language impairment. The workshop will address the challenge of identifying language impairment in bilingual children. It will illustrate assessment material for bilingual children, explore the use of parent and teacher interviews, standardized tests, and narrative language sampling to support clinical decision making regarding diagnosis and intervention processes. Attendees will interpret standardized test data and use assessment protocols for making decisions based on language sampling that can be employed in everyday practice with bilingual children.

Maximum number of attendees: 40

Workshop: Bi-/Multilingualism and the Declining Brain

This free event will look into contemporary suggestions about the neuroprotective effects of bi-/multilingualism against brain decline in healthy and patient populations. It will bring together early career and established researchers in the fields of second language acquisition and cognitive/clinical neuroscience, and will comprise a state-of-the-art snapshot in the field, as well as discuss potential future directions for research.

Linking Formal Instruction with Second Language Processing

Linking Formal Instruction with Second Language Processing:

A Meta-analysis of Processing Instruction Research (1993-2016)


Michael J. Leeser, Florida State University (USA)

Almost 25 years ago, VanPatten and Cadierno (1993) argued that most language instruction was product oriented and did not take into account the underlying processes involved in second language acquisition. Since the publication of that seminal paper, nearly 80 published studies have appeared investigating the effects of processing instruction (PI), which is a type of instructional intervention that seeks to alter or to improve second language learners’ non-optimal input processing strategies so that learners are more likely to make correct form-meaning connections during comprehension. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of PI, discuss the ways in which PI differs from other types of form-focused instruction, and present the findings of a research synthesis and meta-analysis of the almost 80 quantitative PI studies that have been conducted between 1993 and 2016. In addition to evaluating the overall effectiveness of PI, the meta-analysis considers the ways in which processing problems associated with morpho-syntactic structures (and other variables) may mediate the effectiveness of PI. Finally, I explore avenues of future research for relating formal instruction to processing issues in second language acquisition.