Student Profiles

Hanna Louise Binks

Hanna Louise Binks
Start date:
October 2013
Research Topic:
Exploring the Bilingual ‘Catch-up’ in Welsh-English Bilingual Teenagers
Research Supervisor:
Dr Enlli Thomas
Supervising school:
School of Linguistics & English Language,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
Coleg Cenedlaethol Cymraeg

Many studies suggest that bilinguals, who often demonstrate early delays in language, do catch-up with monolingual peers on knowledge of linguistic features. However, the conditions that allow this to happen in minority language contexts are less well-known.This is particularly relevant in Wales. The purpose of this study is to examine: When, and to what extent, secondary school-aged children demonstrate the bilingual catch-up on various aspects of Welsh and English knowledge, To what extent this catch-up is dependent on children’s use of and attitudes towards Welsh and English. Approximately 150 teenagers will be tested on numerous measures of Welsh and English knowledge, including depth of vocabulary knowledge and grammar, across two age groups (12/13 years and 15/16 years), and three bilingual groups (L1 Welsh, simultaneous, and L1 English bilinguals), with measures of daily use of Welsh included in the analysis as a co-variable.

Selected Recent Publications

Thomas, E. M., Williams, N., Jones, Ll. A., Davies, S. & Binks, H. (2013) Acquiring complex structures under minority language conditions: Bilingual acquisition of plural morphology in Welsh. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, pp 1 – 17.

Jennifer Lewendon

Jennifer Lewendon
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Bilingual Prosody and Phonology
Research Supervisor:
Anouschka Foltz
Supervising school:
School of Linguistics & English Language,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My research interests lie primarily in psycholinguistics, specifically the mental and neural processes associated with the perception and recognition of spoken language.
Tasked with processing continuous streams of speech, a listener utilises multiple cues to assist lexical identification. The activation of numerous competing candidates during this process of speech perception is further exaggerated for the bilingual listener by non-selective lexical access, resulting in competition not only from target language candidates but similar items within the inactive lexicon. Using ERP methods, in particular the N400, I intend to explore how certain features of language facilitate or inhibit lexical access in bilingual listeners.

Projects:

  • Sounding foreign: the role of phonology in constraining lexical access within an integrated lexicon.
  • Investigating the role of stress in facilitating lexical-access.
  • Wrong tune, right words? How prosody might break down the language barrier.

My research intends to build upon current models of bilingual word recognition to develop a greater understanding of the role of both suprasegmental information & phonology.

Carla Owen

Carla Owen
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
Literacy and Welsh: Identifying and Exploring the Markers of Literacy Difficulties in the Welsh Language
Research Supervisor:
Professor Enlli Thomas, Dr Nia Young
Supervising school:
School of Education,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Children who receive their education in Wales will be exposed to 2 very different language structures: English (an opaque orthographic system) and Welsh (a transparent orthographic system). Due to the structure of the Welsh curriculum, children attending Welsh-medium schools are not being formally introduced to English until the end of the Foundation Phase at the age of 7. This poses a problem for children who experience literacy difficulties as the assessment tools are currently only available in English. As a consequence, children with literacy difficulties such as Dyslexia can only be formally identified once a child has produced ample pieces of work in English. This results in children potentially not receiving the support they need until a later stage in their education. This study will therefore explore the potential markers of literacy difficulties in the Welsh language. This information will then be used to create a screening tool for use by professionals working with Welsh-speaking children to help identify literacy difficulties at an earlier stage.

John Aled Owen

John Aled Owen
Start date:
October 2012
Research Topic:
Use of Welsh outside the classroom
Research Supervisor:
Dr Jean Ware, Rhian Hodges
Supervising school:
School of Linguistics & English Language,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

An analysis of the reasons for the use or non-use of the Welsh language outside the classroom by students of Welsh-medium secondary schools in areas of Wales where Welsh is not the majority language of the community, with proposals on means of enhancing the use of the language in the extra-academic context.

Athanasia Papastergiou

Athanasia Papastergiou
Start date:
October 2014
Research Topic:
Language and cognitive abilities in bilingual children and the role of educational context
Research Supervisor:
Dr Eirini Sanoudaki, Dr Enlli Thomas, Dr Vicky Chondrogianni
Supervising school:
School of Linguistics & English Language,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Current studies highlight the benefits of bilingualism on children’s cognitive development, especially executive functioning. Cognitive benefits can be modulated by language proficiency and the age of acquisition of the two languages, among other things. Furthermore, recent research seems to suggest that the type of educational programme may be as important in shaping the relationship between language and cognitive abilities. However, recent studies examining executive functions in bilingual children have provided mixed results.

The purpose of this study is to investigate i) how age of acquisition and language proficiency, among other factors, affect executive functions and ii) if the length of exposure to a bilingual educational context influences language and cognition. The language and cognitive abilities of bilingual children, aged 5-12, will be examined in both languages using a range of tasks investigating grammar, vocabulary, as well as cognition and working memory.

We aim to contribute to the existing literature and to theories of language and cognition regarding how bilingual language and cognitive abilities are shaped by educational experience among other variables.

Myfyr Prys

Start date:
October 2011
Research Topic:
Style shifting in Welsh
Research Supervisor:
Peredur Davies / Enlli Thomas
Supervising school:
School of Linguistics & English Language,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

The aim of my research is to explore the nature of stylistic variation in Welsh. Sociolinguistic work on Welsh has been sparse since the eighties, meaning that our understanding of style in modern Welsh may be outdated. My study will attempt to elicit stylistic variation by recording speakers in different situations (informal conversation and interviews) and with different interlocutors (peers and authority figures). A corpus linguistic analysis will then attempt to establish what variables Bilingual Welsh speakers vary to reflect changes in social distance and formality. The thesis of my study is that speakers will vary their use of code-switching and mutation between less formal and more informal conditions. It is further predicted that some other variables suggested by traditional grammar books, such as periphrastic vs. synthetic clause constructions, will not vary significantly.

Selected Recent Publications

Prys, M. Deuchar, M. and Gwerfyl, R. (2012) Measuring speech accommodation in rural welsh pharmacies. In Hamburg Studies in Multilingualism 13: Multilingual Individuals in Multilingual Societies, Braunmüller and Gabriel (eds). Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

Pauliina Sorvisto

Pauliina Sorvisto
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
The neural organisation of lexical knowledge in Welsh-English bilinguals
Research Supervisor:
Dr Marie-Josèphe Tainturier, Dr Paul Mullins
Supervising school:
School of Psychology,

The literature suggests that bilingual language processing takes place in similar brain regions for both of the individual’s languages. However, more recent developments in the field of neuroimaging have suggested that a bilingual’s languages may be separated to some degree on micro-anatomical level.

My research will attempt to explore the neural organisation of bilingual language processing further by completing a series of fMRI studies in both healthy Welsh-English bilinguals, and individuals with brain damage. The participants will perform several word recognition and other language processing tasks in both Welsh and English. By combining different methods of analysis, such as univariate and multivariate techniques, my aim is to explore how language processing may differ between the two languages, and to create a comprehensive overview of neural activation during language processing in Welsh-English bilinguals.

Rebecca Ward

Rebecca Ward
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Systematic Linguistic Profile of Welsh English Bilinguals with Down Syndrome
Research Supervisor:
Dr Eirini Sanoudaki
Supervising school:
Centre for Research on Bilingualism,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My thesis explores the bilingual linguistic profile of children with down syndrome and aims to build the first systematic profile of Welsh/English bilinguals with this neurodevelopmental disorder. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder, however, little is known about bilingual language acquisition for children who have the disorder. Parents are often advised against exposing their children to a second language, however, this recommendation is not based on research findings. The research questions are as follows:

  • What are the language abilities in this population?
    How does development of the two languages in bilinguals with down syndrome compare to development in monolinguals with down syndrome and typically developing children?
  • This project will aim to enhance our understanding of the language profile of individuals with down syndrome in general and will provide new insights which will have important implications for educational policies and clinical practice for these populations.
ResearchGate:
Rebecca_Ward14

More than one million children in British schools study through a language that is not their mother tongue. Business, science, medicine, politics in Europe, and diplomacy worldwide are routinely conducted by speakers of English but mostly as a second or foreign language. In a global context, bilingualism is increasingly the norm but is poorly understood despite its educational and cultural salience. The study of bilingualism is therefore an area of growth, and fast becoming mainstream in social science research.

The pathway draws upon an extensive track record in bilingualism research, encompassing the ESRC-funded Centre for Research on Bilingualism and Theory and Practice at Bangor and the Language Research Centre at Swansea. Bangor and Swansea have complementary expertise, covering bilingual development and education, unconscious language co-activation, bilingual aphasia or linguistic relativity, the bilingual lexicon, as well as language policy, law and socio-linguistics. The institutions are also partners in the creation of the Cardiff-led £1.8m ESRC project to produce the first ever large-scale corpus of Welsh.

The pathway is fundamentally interdisciplinary, combining approaches from linguistics, social linguistics, education, psychology, cognitive neuroscience; the training involves core and joint teaching and supervision across different schools. Students on a 1+3 route will complete their Masters year (or part-time equivalent) with either the MA in Bilingualism or the MSc in Psychological Research at Bangor. The PhD stage will be based at either Bangor or Swansea.

Students become part of a rich research culture which includes seminars, conferences and summer schools. They can also benefit from extensive links with international research centres in Europe and the USA, and from the many research relationships we have established with non-academic organisations in the public, private and third sectors.