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Kathy Conklin

Associate Professor in Psycholinguistics, Faculty of Arts

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Expertise Summary

I am fascinated by how our mind represents and processes all of the complexities of a first (L1) and a second (L2) language. In particular, my research focuses on: (1) representation and processing of multi-word units (e.g. "bread and butter") in the L1 and L2; (2) implicit L2 learning; and (3) automatic word activation in an L1/L2, which has implications for cognitive control. My research makes use of behavioral measures, eye-tracking, and EEG.

You can view my video 'The Eyes Trackers' on YouTube or my podcast about '2nd Language Processing'

Teaching Summary

My teaching largely addresses topics like: is the human brain special, how do we learn language and what allows us to learn a first and second language, how do we produce and understand words and… read more

Research Summary

We constantly use language, and it becomes so practiced that we produce it and comprehend it automatically in a variety of contexts in our native language. However, in a nonnative language reduced… read more

Selected Publications

My goal is for PhD students to establish themselves as researchers. This means ensuring they receive specialized training in experimental design, using specialized software and equipment (e.g. eye-tracker), data analysis, and writing-up their research for the thesis as well as for publication. Postgrads enter a very competitive global academic and professional market. Thus, I help my PhD students gain skills in applying for grants, presenting at conferences, publishing, and developing collaborative research.

Current PhD Students

Julian Kitagawa - Formulaic language in Japanese secondary school English

Marianna Kyriacou - Figurative language processing

Giulia Grisot - Examining reader's reaction to literary texts: a psycho-stylistics approach to modernist writing

Sara Alotaibi - Learning formulaic language in an L2

Completed PhD Students

Gareth Carrol - Idiom processing in native and non-native speakers

David Allen (2013) Cross-linguistic similarity in Japanese-English bilingual processing and representation

Marie-Josée Bison (2013) Incidental acquisition of foreign language vocabulary through multi-modal situations

Taoli Zhang (2013) Activation of Chinese lexical information following automatic translation from English

Alice Doherty (2013) The use of gender and number cues in L1 and L2 pronoun processing

Emily Coderre (2012) Exploring the Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism: Neuroimaging Investigations of Lexical Processing, Executive Control, and the Bilingual Advantage

Anna Siyanova (2010) On-line processing of multi-word sequences in a first and second language: Evidence from eye-tracking and ERP

My teaching largely addresses topics like: is the human brain special, how do we learn language and what allows us to learn a first and second language, how do we produce and understand words and sentences, how do we use context to produce and understand meaning, and how do we use and understand idioms and metaphor, and understand literary texts?

Undergraduate Modules Taught

3rd Year - Language and the Mind

2nd Year - Language Development

1st Year - Language and Context, I contribute in the areas of "Language Science", "Language and the Brain" and "Language Acquisition"

1st Year - Academic Community

Postgraduate Modules Taught

Psychology of Language

MA by distance learning - Psycholinguistics 1 and Psycholinguistics 2

Postgraduate Training

Nottingham Psycholinguistics and Language Learning Lab

Current Research

We constantly use language, and it becomes so practiced that we produce it and comprehend it automatically in a variety of contexts in our native language. However, in a nonnative language reduced proficiency can lead to more mistakes in language production, having a recognizable accent, being slower in reading and comprehension, etc. With well over half the world being bilingual, determining what makes language processing automatic, or 'easier', in a native language, and less so in a nonnative language is an important undertaking. With this in mind, my research focuses on a number of key questions.

(1) Frequent multi-word sequences (fish and chips) are processed more quickly than infrequent or novel sequences (chips and fish). What underpins the processing advantage? And what might allow nonnative speakers to realize this same processing advantage?

(2) It seems impossible to achieve fluency in a L2 simply in the confines of the classroom. What aspects of language, like vocabulary, can be learned implicitly? And what factors impact implicit L2 learning?

(3) Words from a L1 are activated when processing in a L2. Thus, L1 coinEnglish is activated when reading L2 coinFrench. What factors influence this automatic activation? For example, what is the role of the amount of cross-linguistic overlap? Also, what is the impact of non-selective activation on cognitive control?

(4) Can native-like sentence processing be achieved in an L2, particularly when the morpho-syntax in the L1 and L2 differ? My work addresses this question by exploring anaphor resolution and the use of grammatical and natural gender by native and nonnative speakers.

My research makes use of behavioral measures, eye-tracking, and EEG. You can view my video 'The Eyes Trackers' on YouTube or my podcast about '2nd Language Processing'. You can see more about what I research by clicking on the Research Supervision tab.

School of English

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924
email: english-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk