2020 applicants
Department of Language and Linguistics

Our research

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Leaders in research

Our ground-breaking research is published throughout the leading journals in linguistics, and textbooks written by our staff are used in classrooms around the world.

At Essex, we believe in researching the complex and fascinating domain of language and linguistics from every angle.

Our world-class researchers tackle diverse questions like:

  • How do children and adults learn their first and subsequent languages?
  • What teaching methodologies best aid in the learning of vocabulary and grammar?
  • What are the structures found in the world’s languages and what constrains these structures?
  • How do human brains process the language(s) that an individual knows?
  • How is social identity linked to the way a person speaks?

Our renowned research profile is supported by research centres, specialised research groups, regular meetinsg of seminar talks, and our invigorating postraduate research community.

See below for information on each of these areas.

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"More than three-quarters of our research is ranked `world-leading’ or `internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), and we’re ranked among the top 150 departments in the world (QS World University Rankings)."
Director of research department of language and linguistics

Research Centres

Our research centres facilitate pioneering, interdisciplinary work at the vanguard of linguistic research:

Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi)

Research Networks

Research in Primary Languages

Bilingualism Matters

Research Groups

African Languages Research Group

The African Languages Research Group provides a forum for pursuing linguistic research on languages of Africa and the diaspora. This is done through reading and discussing articles, presentations by both staff and students on their research, and talks by visiting academics. 

We maintain a broad interest in linguistic description and analysis, including topics related to phonology, morphosyntax, semantics, language contact, and sociolinguistics. Regional expertise lies in Eastern and Southern Africa, particularly in the Bantu languages. All students and staff are welcome!

For more information contact Dr Kyle Jerro

Arabic Linguistics Research Group

The Arabic Linguistics Research Group is led by Professor Enam Al-Wer and Dr Uri Horesh. Current membership includes scholars whose work on Arabic covers language variation and change, sociolinguistic theory, phonology, morphology and syntax. The Group was first convened in 2008 and has since expanded in membership and scope. 

Collaborative research by Group members has been presented internationally, most recently as a special panel at the Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe (AIDA) conference in Marseille, as well as New Waves of Analyzing Variation (NWAV), the Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics (ASAL) and the Arabic Linguistics Forum. 

The Forum was set up at Essex in 2015 and its inaugural conference was organised by the Research Group in collaboration with colleagues at the University of York.
The Group meets every two weeks to engage in research activities such as:

- Discussion of general linguistic issues in theory and methods
- Presentations by the Group members
- Planning prospective collaborative research projects
- For more information, please email the Group’s coordinator: Sara Al Sheyadi
- You can also find out more on the Arabic Linguistics Forum website, Facebook and Twitter

Conversation Analysis Research Group

The Conversation Analysis (CA) Research Group is co-ordinated by Dr Rebecca Clift and meets weekly for two hours during term-time. It is a forum for the technical, conversation-analytic examination of interactional data - both audio and videoed, and discussion of current research in conversation analysis. Our members are current PhD students and they bring a number of native languages to the group. 

Currently we have speakers of Arabic, Mandarin and English, and past members have been native speakers of Japanese, Spanish, Greek and French. We also invite leading CA researchers to lead data sessions and present work-in-progress; past visitors have included Joe Blythe, Paul Drew, Elizabeth Holt, Kobin Kendrick, Celia Kitzinger, Jenny Mandelbaum, Elizabeth Manrique, John Rae, Lucas Seuren, Gareth Walker and Ray Wilkinson.

For more information, please email Dr Rebecca Clift

English Language Teaching Research Group

The English Language Teaching Research Group will be of interest to any students currently carrying out or intending to carry out research focused on any aspect of English language teaching, taking a quantitative, a qualitative or a mixed-methods approach. The group is co-ordinated by Dr Christina Gkonou, Dr Sophia Skoufaki and Dr Tracey Costley.

There are three main formats for meetings:

Students may present their work for about 20-30 minutes, and then the group provides comments or questions. For instance, students may present draft research questions or some of their findings for feedback and discussion. Students who are in the earlier or later stages of their research are encouraged to present: it's never too early to make a presentation!
Students or staff may practise a conference presentation, with the group providing feedback.
The group may read an agreed article in advance and meet to discuss it.

For more information, please email Dr Christina GkonouDr Sophia Skoufaki or Dr Tracey Costley

Phonology Research Group

The Phonology Research Group is coordinated by Prof Nancy Kula and Dr Yuni Kim, and meets during term-time.

Its main purpose is to provide regular opportunities for PhD students to present and get feedback on their work in progress, and to foster intellectual engagement among the phonologists and phonology-interested members of the department. We also discuss recently published articles that are of common relevance to several members' research. 

For more information, contact Prof Nancy Kula. 

Second Language/Psycholinguistics Research Group

The joint Second Language/Psycholinguistics Research Group provides a forum for research students and staff to exchange ideas about and discuss current issues in second or additional language learning/acquisition, language development, language attrition (i.e. loss), language teaching as well as first language acquisition and language processing.

In our meetings, group members present work in progress such as plans for a PhD project or results from a pilot study, we try out data collection instruments or language teaching materials designed by group members, or members may give presentations on completed studies, e.g. to practise for a conference.

In addition, we read and discuss recent research papers that are of interest to group members in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in our field and to encourage an exchange of ideas between different theoretical perspectives (e.g. usage-based and generative) and different sub-areas (e.g. L2 and L1 learning).

For more information, please email Professor Florence Myles, Dr Karen Roehr-Brackin or Professor Monika Schmid

Research Events

During term time, we host a regular departmental seminars with internationally-acclaimed guest speakers discussing cutting-edge research on different topics in language and linguistics. These events are open to everyone and keep our students and faculty linked to current research throughout the UK and abroad.

Contact Professor Peter Patrick for more information on our seminar series.

We also host many conferences and workshops which cover a range of topics, such as applied linguistics, modern language teaching, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics.

Research Students

From improving methods to teach foreign languages, to the study of how language is acquired and represented in the mind, our students are creating new knowledge in many areas of language and linguistics.