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PhD Students

Find out more about our PhD students and how they are utilising the labs and equipment for their research experiments below.

Benedict Neurohr


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3rd Year PhD student in Applied Linguistics


Without eye-tracking, my PhD as I want it to be could not exist. Two years ago, I never expected to be saying something like this. I had ideas, theories and predictions about how people read and understand the written words but no real way of getting at them, of getting at any real data. All of that changed when I saw an example of what eye-tracking can do hanging outside of the Psycholinguistics lab in the Trent Building. I thought up an idea for an experiment that would actually be able to test my theory and pitched it to my PhD supervisor, Peter Stockwell. The experiment I had in my head back then had no hope of working, but it set things in motion. A year later I had taken on a new second supervisor, Kathy Conklin, who helped me enormously, joined a new research group, started working in the very same lab outside of which this all started, and finally had a working experiment.
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I am now in my third year and have a major eye-tracking study wrapped up and a second on the go. Using the data I gained from eye-tracking so far has given me wonderful insights into how the reading process really works, how people differ yet also how some things are the same. My first major experiment investigated reader understanding in the face of contradictory sentences embedded in stories, based on their reading patterns and follow-up questions of how readers felt about this. It has allowed me to test the limits of how much a text can be manipulated and made difficult and still be readable, and where that subtle line is beyond which we just can’t quite accept what we are reading. To my surprise, that line is seemingly quite hard to reach. Next up, I hope to tackle genre, and all those wonderful tropes that let us instantly know if we’re reading an innovative sci-fi or maybe a classic romance. Do they make things easier or tougher for us? Eye-tracking will help me find out.


Meredith Cicerchia

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2nd year PhD student in Applied Linguistics

I use the Psycholinguistics lab at the University of Nottingham to investigate different aspects of Arabic word learning in novice L1 English speakers with no previous exposure to the language. My first study in Spring-Summer 2017 involved a multi-modal word-learning task where participants were presented with audio and images alongside the phonetic transcription of 40 Arabic words. They were provided with feedback to learn the words in the E-Prime program and returned 5-7 days later so I could compare their responses to performance on a new set of words. I am now using the findings of my first study to inform a second study which will focus on familiar and unfamiliar Arabic phonemes in word learning. Working in the Psycholinguistics lab is crucial for the kind of investigations I want to do as I’m not only considering participant performance, but response time data as well.

Marianna Kyriacou

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3rd year PhD student in Applied Linguistics

The focus of my thesis lies in the processing of idiomatic language. For example, I am generally interested in how people understand idioms like spill the beans, as opposed to non-idiomatic phrases like cook the beans. More specifically though, I am interested in how much modification an idiom can take without losing its idiomatic status. One of my projects explores the potential effects of inserting adjectives into the idiomatic phrase; for instance, when one encounters an utterance such as he spilled the spicy beans will they recognise the phrase as a variation of the original idiom (and thus retrieve its idiomatic meaning), or will they only retrieve the literal meaning of the phrase instead? Eye-tracking offers unparalleled opportunities to investigate questions like these, and this is mainly why I have employed it as my major experimental technique.
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Its ability to capture on-line language comprehension through naturalistic reading, makes it the perfect tool to gather data on idiomatic language processing. As a matter of fact, previous eye-tracking studies, have already contributed significant findings to the field. For example, it has been found that idioms exhibit shorter reading times and attract fewer fixations (i.e. gazes) and re-fixations than control phrases. This has shown that not only idioms are processed faster than literal phrases, but that they also require less rereading and hence less re-analysis. Along these lines, I intend to compare eye-tracking measures, such as reading times, for modified idioms (e.g. spill the spicy beans) versus control phrases (e.g. cook the spicy beans). If reading times are found to be consistently shorter for idioms, then this would suggest that the processing advantage of idioms remains intact, despite the addition of the adjectives. Furthermore, this would imply that the idiomatic meaning was not lost. If, on the other hand, reading times for idioms are found to be significantly longer than controls, then this would suggest that the idiomatic meaning suffered due to the manipulation – although this would not necessarily exclude idiomatic consideration altogether.


Victoria Howard

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2nd year PhD student in Applied Linguistics


I’m an Applied Linguistics PhD student. I began my career as a solicitor and later taught law whilst completing my MA part-time by distance learning at Nottingham. My PhD studies explore language in a political institution. As part of my School of English Research Scholarship I work in the Linguistic Profiling for Professionals team.

My research examines how speakers negotiate institutional and socio-cultural rules in House of Lords debates and how their linguistic performance is evaluated by others. I’m interweaving several analytical approaches to explore the relationship between rule-behaviour and linguistic construction of identities, particularly the intersections between gender, age and class. The aim is to identify practices which restrict egalitarian participation in politics with a view to informing debate about House of Lords reform.


Giulia Grisot

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2rd year PhD student in Applied Linguistics


I’m a third year PhD student in the School of English. I previously completed an MA in Literary Linguistics at the University of Nottingham. My research investigates the mechanisms behind reading, in particular the processes required to understand ‘difficult’ literature.

In order to understand how readers process difficult literary texts, I examined Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dallo-way and To the Lighthouse as a case study. I surveyed actual readers to understand whether the assumption that Woolf’s writing is difficult. After establishing that this is true for most readers, I am currently investigating what underpins the difficulty, which, I assume, derives from her use of free indirect style. I am using eye tracking to observe how readers deal with her texts, and am looking at whether eye movements pinpoint where difficulty arises.




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