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By Dr Wine Tesseur, Post Doctoral Research Assistant in Modern Languages and European Studies

This blog has been translated to over 15 languages with the support of ‘The Language Industry’. See the translated versions.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to put the most vulnerable populations first and to leave no one behind. This implies communicating in a multiplicity of languages, yet the SDGs are silent on language issues.

Although proponents see the realisation of the SDGs as emerging from dialogue with vulnerable populations, it is unclear how sustainable, two-way democratic communication will be ensured.

The absence of any mention of language in the SDGs was the topic of a United Nations Symposium titled ‘Language, the Sustainable Development Goals and Vulnerable Populations’, held in New York on 11-12 May 2017. It was the second event organised by a Study Group on Language and the United Nations, an independent group of scholars and practitioners.

As a researcher on the project ‘The Listening Zones of NGOs: Languages and Cultural Knowledge in Development Programmes’, jointly organised by INTRAC (the International NGO Training and Research Centre), the University of Reading and the University of Portsmouth, I participated in the symposium and contributed a paper on the role of languages in the development work of international UK-based NGOs. I was curious to find out more about the work of other researchers as well as practitioners working on the role of languages in development. In this blog, I share some thoughts and insights on the discussions and debates that took place over these two stimulating days.

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‘Fine-grained patterns of language use contribute to variance in bilingual language processing.’

Joanna John, University of Reading


‘Effect of socio-economic status on cognitive control in non-literate bilingual speakers.’

Dr Vishnu Kaleeckal Krishnankutty Nair, Flinders University, Australia

4.15 – 5.30pm

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‘How do you read a language you can’t hear? Insights into literacy from children who are deaf.’

Mairead McSweeney, University College London

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‘Can people with developmental disorders function successfully as bilinguals?’

Napoleon Katsos, University of Cambridge

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CeLM Seminars

Forum – Language teaching and learning

Discussions on issues related to language teaching and learning with the aim to bring together language practitioners at ISLI and CeLM members who do research on language acquisition, identify research agendas from the language teaching and learning perspective, link theory to practice and foster collaboration within CeLM.

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CeLM Seminar Series

Development of a vocabulary screener for young children speaking multiple languages 

by Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane, Dept of Education, University of York


The number of children in UK primary schools learning English as an additional language is growing. A consistent achievement gap is found in national assessments of language and literacy between children learning EAL and their monolingual peers at the early stages of schooling. Support for these pupils is vital.  However, in order to provide the right support it is important to identify those children who have a language impairment from those who may simply need more exposure to English. This paper will highlight some of the issues around the assessment children learning English as an Additional Language with a particular focus on vocabulary. Drawing on recent research, the paper will discuss the importance of assessing children in both their first and second languages and the challenge this poses for practitioners.  The paper will demonstrate a newly developed task for assessing receptive vocabulary in a child’s home language which is designed to be used by practitioners and researchers working with children learning EAL.

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CeLM Seminar Series

“Bilingual reference production: A multifactorial approach.”

Jacopo Torregrossa, University of Hamburg

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CeLM Seminar Series

“Intergenerational language attrition and loss in bilingual families in Europe: A threat to Harmonious Bilingual Development.”

Annick De Houwer, University of Erfurt

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CeLM Seminar Series

” A Cantonese AphasiaBank with multi-faceted and multi-modal annotation of linguistic and gestural information of aphasic narratives: A database to facilitate cross-linguistic studies”

Anthony Pak Hin Kong, University of Central Florida

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CeLM Seminer Series

Asymmetries in phonological representation and processing

Adhiti Lahiri (Oxford University)

The speaker-listener interaction is problematic since pronunciation of words is inevitably variable. No word is ever uttered in an identical fashion even by the same speaker. Models of word recognition vary in their assumptions about how words are represented in the mental lexicon, how much detail is stored, and how the speech signal is mapped on to the lexicon. The Featurally Underspecified Lexicon (FUL) claims that some variability problems can be resolved by assuming that the representation of words is phonologically sparse. Privative underspecified feature representations, which account for a number of asymmetries that are typical and pertinacious in synchronic and diachronic phonological systems, are also responsible for asymmetries in word recognition. These features, extracted from the signal, are then mapped on to the lexical representation using a  three-way matching logic of “match, mismatch, no-mismatch“. The talk will present a phonological sketch of the model along with evidence from a series of psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic experiments on German, English, Swedish and Bengali.

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