Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics
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Current Research Projects

Dr Kathy Conklin

Linguistic patterns in first and second language acquisition: Does input matter?

Leverhulme International Fellowship

01/09/2018 – 30/06/2019

Dr Kathy Conklin (Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics)

A major focus of this research is on formulaic language. For example, English speakers say that things go together like “bread and butter” not like “butter and bread”. While linguistic patterns such as these account for up to half of spoken discourse, they are a relatively under-researched phenomenon. Kathy investigates how input in a second language relates to adults’ acquisition and processing of formulaic sequences. Research at the Language Development Department (LaDD) at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) focuses on how children’s learning mechanisms exploit language input to develop linguistic knowledge. Kathy has been awarded a ten month Leverhulme International Fellowship to work to bring insights from first and second language acquisition together, which will enable new and broader explanations of input driven language development, while also demonstrating the value of addressing fundamental questions about acquisition by bringing together experts who normally work apart – those on child and adult language development.


Language and LGBT identity: Exploring the marginalisation of young people

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant

01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Dr Lucy Jones ( Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

This project involves fieldwork with young LGBT people in three socioeconomically and culturally variable locations in the UK. It combines ethnography with discourse analysis to examine the strategies used by the young people to negotiate norms and ideologies of gender and sexuality in their everyday interaction. Specifically, the project focuses on intersectionality to consider how factors such as the young people’s socioeconomic class, ethnicity, location, and support networks impact on their experiences as LGBT people and their subsequent identity constructions. The aims of the project are (1) to develop a framework for the qualitative sociolinguistic analysis of LGBT identity which takes into account the impact of other social identities, and (2) to inform social policy and practice related to the support of young LGBT people. This second point will be achieved via a briefing paper and a workshop in collaboration with the young people involved in this project. This will provide those working in healthcare, education, and social policy at a local and national level with information about the support needs of LGBT youth.


Narrative and identity: A linguistic analysis of gender dysphoric patients’ autobiographies

Research Priority Area Fund (Languages, Texts and Societies and Health Humanities)

01/09/2018 - 30/06/2019

Dr Lucy JonesProfessor Lucy Mullany (Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics) alongside Dr Angela ZottolaProfessor Alison PilnickProfessor Jon Arcelus and Dr Walter Pierre Bouman

This collaborative project between Lucy Jones (Principal Investigator) and Louise Mullany in English, Alison Pilnick in Sociology, and Walter Pierre Bouman and Jon Arcelus from the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health, involves the digitisation of autobiographical stories produced by patients at the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health as part of their initial assessment process. Angela Zottola is Research Fellow on this project between 2018-19, and is using corpus linguistic methods to identify and analyse key patterns within the autobiographies. They hope to learn how patients present themselves in relation to broader ideologies surrounding gender and transgender experience. The findings of this project will not only contribute to sociolinguistic knowledge of transgender experience, but will be of use to clinical practitioners: transgender people currently face a very long wait to be assessed at transgender health services, and are particularly vulnerable during this time.


Marginalised Families Online: Exploring the role of digital media for parents in diverse family groups

The British Academy

03/03/2018 – 02/03/2021

Dr Jai MacKenzie (Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics)

The Marginalised Families Online project will explore the role that digital (online and mobile) media such as messaging apps, discussion forums, social networks and blogs, play in the lives of marginalised family groups in the UK. It focuses on parents who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender), adoptive, and/or solo (raising children on their own).

The project aims to give a voice to families who tend to be under-represented in both an academic and broader social context, and to highlight some of the challenges they face. It uses innovative methods (drawing on sociological, linguistic and digital approaches and tools) to forge new understanding of the way parents navigate their roles, relationships and experiences in relation to social norms around gender, sexuality and the family. By focusing on the intersections between the experiences of LGBT, solo and adoptive parents, the project seeks to understand and address issues that relate to a range of diverse families

Corpus Creation

Below is a list of our corpus creation projects. Click on the each heading for more detailed information.

CANCODE (The Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English)

Project Dates: 1990s

Funding Source: Cambridge University Press and the University of Nottingham

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs

The Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in English (CANCODE) is a five million word corpus of spoken interaction led by Professor Mike McCarthy and Professor Ronald Carter. The corpus was collected in the 1990s as part of a collaborative project between The University of Nottingham and Cambridge University Press. A list of publications that are based on this corpus can be found here.

For further information please see the CANCODE project website and contact or


CANBEC (Cambridge and Nottingham Business English Corpus)

Project Dates: 2001-2003

Funding Source: Cambridge University Press and the University of Nottingham

The Cambridge and Nottingham Business English Corpus (CANBEC) was collected between 2001 and 2003 and is a one million word extension to the CANCODE corpus, consisting of spoken interaction recorded in a variety of business meeting settings, and directed by Professor Mike McCarthy and Professor Ronald Carter.

For further information please contact


The Nottingham Health Communication Corpus

CRAL Staff: Dr Kevin Harvey

Over the past two years we have been developing the Nottingham Health Communication Corpus (NHCC) which currently consists of over half a million words of transcribed interactions between health professionals and patients. The corpus is a key resource that informs interdisciplinary research of the Health Language Research Group at Nottingham involving key staff from the School of Nursing, Sociology and Social Policy, Pharmacy and CRAL.

For further details please contact


Previous Research Projects

Below is a list of previous research projects carried out within CRAL. Click on the heading for more detailed information.

L2 reading and reading-while-listening in multi-modal learning conditions: An eye-tracking study 

Eye-tracking_ 208x90


October 2015 - September 2017

We are investigating how adult and young learners process the different sources of input in multi-modal situations, i.e. reading and reading while listening with pictures. We are using eye-movement data to explore the potential relationship between processing behaviour and reading comprehension. Our work will provide the most comprehensive view of the benefits of reading and reading while listening and of the use of pictorial information to support the reading comprehension process.


Stimulating Medical Talk

GP consultation


October 2013 - October 2016

The  Simulating Medical Talk project addresses a current topic in medical education from the analytic perspective of sociolinguistics. A close linguistic analysis of video data from simulated patient surgeries allows us to address potential communicative differences or difficulties between candidates. This has implications for further understanding contemporary clinical examinations and the training of postgraduate doctors.


CliC Dickens



October 2013 - September 2015

The  CLiC Dickens project demonstrates through corpus stylistics how computer-assisted methods can be used to study literary texts and lead to new insights into how readers perceive fictional characters. As part of the project we develop a new corpus tool, CLiC (Corpus Linguistics in Cheshire), designed specifically for the analysis of literary texts.


Exploiting corpus research for English Language Teaching applications

Project Dates: January 2011 - December 2011

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs, Dr Catherine Smith, Dr Ron Martinez

There are currently 120,000 Chinese students in Europe - two-thirds of them in the UK. International students whose first language is not English encounter many difficulties when attempting to use language in real life situations. Although there is some reference to 'real' English in English Language Teaching materials used in China, the lack of existing research to develop context-sensitive descriptions of language-in-use mean that many English Language Teaching materials are often limited in providing the kind of language competencies required to interact in the host culture.

Building on previous ESRC-funded research in this area, this research tests a concept demonstrator for a multi-modal ELT resource for teaching academic English in different contexts and subjects. The aim is to develop a high quality product in collaboration with commercial partners aimed at improving listening skills of Chinese-speaking students who intend to join or are on postgraduate courses in English-speaking universities. Materials will be developed in different formats and will be trialled initially via web-based delivery and through mobile learning environments. The end-user data will be analysed with a view to establishing key usability issues in terms of content and navigation as well as the strategy for commercial delivery of the material.

Further details are available on the Exploiting Corpus research for ELT applications project website.


Crowd Sourcing: a Toolkit-based Approach

Project Dates: 2010-2011

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs, Dr Dawn Knight and Dr Catherine Smith

We propose a software toolkit – initially comprising cloud-hosted services with web APIs and web and mobile clients – to support a range of crowd-sourcing activities based on the provision of information. As well as supporting essentially stand-alone activities, this toolkit will have the option of linking to the Personal Container(s) being developed within the Horizon Hub, which are a software infrastructure for managing and utilizing an individual’s personal data. The link to personal containers allows crowd-sourcing of already-collected data (such as information from my personal journey logs, store transactions or medical history). Initial areas of application include: journey data; personal and community history; and contextually-appropriate use of spoken English for non-native speakers. As well as technical challenges of ease of use, scalability, privacy-preservation and filtering, work on crowd-sourcing also unavoidably opens up questions of motivation, reward, intellectual property, safety and policy.

For further details see the Crowd sourcing paper produced for the  Digital Futures 2010 conference (held in Nottingham).


DReSS II (Understanding Digital Records for eSocial Science)

Project Dates: 2008-2011

Funding Source: ESRC Grant No. RES-149-25-1067

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

The ESRC funded DReSS II inter-disciplinary project involves staff from the School of Computer Science and CRAL at the University of Nottingham. The project builds on developments made as part of  DReSS I, seeking to allow for the collection and collation of a wider range of heterogeneous datasets for linguistic research, with the aim of facilitating the investigation of the interface between multiple modes of communication in everyday life.

Further details are available on the DReSS II project website.


Towards Pervasive Media

Project Dates: 2009-2011

Funding Source: EPSRC Cross-Disciplinary Feasibility Account

CRAL Staff: Professor Ron Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and staff in Computer Science Prof Steve Benford PI

This grant is led by Steve Benford in the School of Computer Science and IT and involves a number of colleagues from the Arts and Humanities (including Prof Adolphs and Prof Carter from CRAL). Here is a summary of the project taken from the original application: 'The integration of the Internet with social computing and now with mobile and ubiquitous computing is transforming our creative industries, from games to journalism, driving the emergence of new forms of converged pervasive media in which the public contributes as well as consumes content, are available 'anytime and anywhere', and are ever more deeply interwoven into our daily lives. However, reaping the potential benefits of pervasive media for our economy and society requires a fundamental shift in our understanding of how such media are designed, produced and experienced; something that is not currently available within the disciplines of Computer Science and Engineering whose focus is primarily on the underlying technologies. This understanding can however, be found in the Arts and Humanities which for many years have been developing theories and methods relevant to the study of the established media of text, drama, film and television alongside deep understandings of the human experience of place, history and identity that can inform future pervasive media experiences. In short, there is a rich vein of research right across the Arts and Humanities that might fundamentally transform our approach to designing and studying pervasive media in Science and Engineering if only we could bridge the gap between these disciplines.

Building upon initial networking within Nottingham's newly formed Pervasive Media Group, we wish to undertake a series of activities to help establish a new cross-disciplinary community of researchers from across Computer Science, Engineering and the Arts and Humanities who can collectively address the challenges of the new pervasive media from very different, but complementary, perspectives. Initial activities (troubadour studies, artist residencies and makefests) serve to catalyse new collaborations and facilitate early ideas generation, while subsequent activities (feasibility projects) will explore the feasibility of emerging ideas and produce proposals for future full-scale funding. We will disseminate the results of the feasibility studies to potential academic and industry partners through a final showcase event and also gather and communicate our reflections on this new style of cross-disciplinary working though a 'crossing cultures' workshop.'


Health Communication and the Internet: An Analysis of Adolescent Language Use on the Teenage Health Freak Website

Project Dates: Jan-Dec 2010

Funding Source: ESRC Grant No.RES-000-22-3448

CRAL Staff: Professor Svenja Adolphs, Associate Professor Louise Mullany and Dr Catherine Smith

The research explores the integration of corpus-linguistic and sociolinguistic approaches for the analysis of a unique, 2-million word longitudinal corpus of messages posted to the ‘Teenage Health Freak’ website. Drawing on the corpus linguistic and sociolinguistic expertise the descriptive advantages afforded by the tools of corpus linguistics are used to inform sociolinguistic observations of adolescent language innovation and change on the specific topic of health care. Keywords and key phrases used by adolescent advice-seekers, with associated meanings and patterns of use over a period of 6 years, are extracted from the corpus and then analysed to highlight emergent trends in adolescent sociolinguistic style and register. As well as the academic value of this combined methodological innovation, the findings of the analysis will be made available to health care providers and users of health care services in the form of a practical, encyclopaedic resource, thus contributing to the continuous professional development of user groups in the NHS, as well as being a resource for parents, teachers and adolescents themselves.

Further details are available on the Teenage Health Freak project website.


DReSS I (Understanding Digital Records for eSocial Science)

Project Dates: 2005-2008

Funding Source: ESRC Grant No. RES-149-25-0035

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

‘Understanding New Forms of Digital Record’ was a 3-year research ‘node’ project that was also funded by the ESRC as part of the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS). Digital Records was an inter-disciplinary project, utilising the expertise of Computer Scientists, Psychologists and Linguists.

Further details are available on the DReSS I project website.



Project Dates: 2005-2006

Funding Source: ESRC grant No. RES-149-25-1016

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter, Professor Svenja Adolphs and Dr Dawn Knight

HeadTalk was a 12 month interdisciplinary demonstrator project involving Applied Linguists and Computer Vision experts based at the University of Nottingham. This project, funded by the ESRC’s National Centre for e-Social Science, focused upon the development and exploitation of computer vision techniques that are able to annotate video streams and mark-up gesture-in-talk, allowing for detailed empirical explorations of markers of active listenership (backchannels) in discourse. It focused specifically upon exploring the existence, functions and roles of a sub-group of backchannels; head nods, in dyadic conversation.

Further details are available on the Headtalk project website.


The Acquisition of Multiword Units

Project Dates: 2001-2003

Funding Source: ESRC

This ESRC funded project set out to study the acquisition of multi-word structures. The study investigated the acquisition of L2 multi-word structures over a period of 16 months, with corpus data used as a baseline. A key aspect of the project was to set up an integrated interdisciplinary framework that allows us to explore combinations of affective, cognitive and strategic variables facilitate or inhibit lexical growth. Participants in this study were international students studying at Nottingham University; for such students the study has acute relevance because their academic achievement is often severely hampered by limitations in their stylistic and phraseological competence, caused by a restricted repertoire of genre specific multi-word structures. The project ran over two years and was completed in July 2003.


A Network for Arts and Humanities Research and Business Development

Funding Source: AHRC

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter

This project is concerned with the formation and development of an AHRC National Network for HEI staff engaged in research and business roles, specifically linked to the arts and humanities research base. Alongside the formation of the Network the project research will develop a new profile focused upon the nature and delivery of academic/external research engagement. 

For further information please contact


Discourses of Cleanliness in Health and Agriculture

Funding Source: ESRC

CRAL Staff: Dr Brigitte Nerlich

The purpose of this project is to find answers to the following questions: How are the problems of infectious disease control framed in policy and practitioner narratives? To what extent does this reveal a shared agenda for action? And what are the implications for improving preparedness for zoonoses?

For further details please contact


TOEFL Tests Development (ETS)

CRAL Staff: Professor Ronald Carter

Another project currently underway is part of the development of the next generation of TOEFL tests and has been commissioned by the Educational Testing Service. 

For further information please contact


Language and Gender in Professional Communication

CRAL Staff: Associate Professor Louise Mullany

Dr Louise Mullany conducts research into the interplay between language and gender in professional communication. This research has included examinations of the interactional strategies women and men use in the workplace, as well as investigating the representations and evaluations of colleagues based on their gendered behaviour. This research has been published in numerous articles, and a monograph entitled Gendered discourse in the professional workplace published in 2007 by  Macmillan. For more publications in this area visit Louise Mullany's website.

For more information, contact


Second Language Speech Fluency and Multi-word Units

Funding Source: EPSRC

CRAL Staff: Professor Svenja Adolphs and Professor Tom Rodden

This is a collaborative, EPSRC funded project directed by Professor Svenja Adolphs at CRAL and Professor Tom Rodden at the Mixed Reality Laboratory (MRL) at Nottingham. The research combines theory and methodology from the areas of psycholinguistics and computational linguistics within a demonstrator project of multiword units in an existing native speaker and non-native speaker corpus of English, investigating the placement of pauses within and around such units. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the way in which different types of automatically extracted multi-word units are stored by native and non-native speakers.

For further information please contact

Further details are available on the SLSF project website.


Longitudinal Survey of Language Attitudes and Language Learning Motivation in Hungary

CRAL Staff: Professor Zoltàn Dörnyei

Over 13 years Zoltàn Dörnyei lead a large-scale survey project in Hungary that is aimed at assessing young Hungarian teenagers' attitudes towards five target languages (English, German, French, Italian and Russian) and their motivation to learn these languages. The team has already administered three phases of the survey - in 1993, 1999 and 2004 - involving over 13,000 participants, making this the largest ever L2 motivation survey, and of the repeated-measures design has allowed them to track any ongoing changes in the language disposition of the population. Several publications have been written to describe various aspects of the project and Zoltàn and his Hungarian Research Associates completed a comprehensive summary of the results: Dörnyei, Z., Csizér, K., & Németh, N. (2006). Motivational dynamics, language attitudes and language globalisation: A Hungarian perspective. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

For further information please contact


The Psychology of Second Language Acquisition

CRAL Staff: Professor Zoltàn Dörnyei

Zoltàn Dörnyei has been working on a major monograph for Oxford University Press to summarise the most important interfaces of psychological and applied linguistic research on second language acquisition. This volume will accompany his book on “The Psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition” (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005) by focusing on the various learning and acculturation processes that take place over the sustained period of mastering a second language. Zoltàn's aim is to show that future research will need to adopt an interdisciplinary approach involving a number of different psychological/psycholinguistic and linguistic areas to be able to provide a more accurate description of the complex processes that characterise second language acquisition.

For further information please contact


Mental Processing of Multi-Word Units

CRAL Staff: Professor Norbert Schmitt

This project follows up on the 2003 ESRC funded project, in particular, the speeded reading experiment. The project refines this methodology by timing how it takes native speakers to read idioms in context. The idioms are presented in both idiomatic (on the other hand = conversely) and literal (on the other hand = physically on the opposite hand) contexts, as well as in a jumbled order in which the component words cannot be interpreted as the idiom (the hand on the poster attracted attention). Participants will timed when reading these three variables, which should indicate whether there is a processing advantage of idioms over creative language, and whether there is an advantage or idiomatic interpretations over literal ones. This study is being carried out by Norbert Schmitt in conjunction with Geoffrey Underwood from the School of Psychology.

For further information please contact


The Percentage of Vocabulary Coverage Required for Effective Reading

CRAL Staff: Professor Norbert Schmitt

Previous research has suggested that the percentage of known vocabulary required to read effectively is somewhere between 95% and 98%. However, this research has suffered from quite blunt measurements of both vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Norbert Schmitt is combining his vocabulary expertise with the reading specialism of Bill Grabe from the University of Northern Arizona to approach this question in a more rigorous way. Participants will be individually tested for how much vocabulary they know in two reading passages, and an extensive comprehension test will measure their intake from the passages. The result will be a much more detailed description of the relationship between vocabulary size and reading ability.

For further information please contact


A Vocabulary Research Manual

CRAL Staff: Professor Norbert Schmitt

There has been a steadily increasing amount of research into vocabulary acquisition and use, but much of this research has been compromised by basic problems in research methodology. Norbert Schmitt is writing a research manual for researchers and postgraduate students which outlines the key requirements for rigorous lexical research, including the selection of appropriate target vocabulary, how to avoid the confounding issues like frequency effects, and how to write valid and reliable lexical testing instruments. The book is contracted with Palgrave Press in a series edited by Chris Candlin and David Hall and should appear in 2007.

For further information please contact


Bilingual Access to Interlingual Homographs

CRAL Staff: Dr Kathy Conklin

Because over half of the world's population speaks more than one language, research on bilingual lexical (word) representation and processing is essential. Crucially, we need to gain an understanding of when and how word representations from a first language (L1) influence processing in a second language (L2). Investigations of whether lexical activation is interactive (whether words from the two languages influence each other) have studied interlingual homographs (e.g., coin meaning “piece of money” in English and “corner” in French) presented in isolation or word pair contexts. Findings from such studies indicate that bilinguals activate both meanings of interlingual homographs when reading a word like coin. This supports an interactive view of language processing. My research extends this literature by examining the activation of interlingual homographs presented in sentence contexts. Thus far results demonstrate that both meanings of interlingual homographs are available while reading sentences in one language and investigates how factors such as sentence context, word frequency, and proficiency flexibly influence access to lexical representations in both of a bilingual's languages.

For further information please contact


Bilingual Activation of Language Specific Gender Information

CRAL Staff: Dr Kathy Conklin

Additional studies investigate the conditions under which gender information from Dutch word representations influences processing in English during the natural task of listening to sentences in a short discourse. Eye movements of Dutch-English bilinguals are monitored to investigate when language-specific grammatical gender information from L1 influences processing in L2. Participants view a scene with a cartoon character and an inanimate object, which has a grammatical gender in Dutch (e.g., tractor is masculine), while listening to sentences in English. If bilinguals automatically activate Dutch gender information associated with these objects when hearing English sentences, then in cases where the cartoon character and object have the same gender the subsequent pronoun will be ambiguous. For example in, The tractor will be driven by Donald. He is in the other field., “he” can refer to either the tractor or Donald for Dutch speakers. For English monolingual speakers “he” can only refer to the animate noun Donald. Experiments investigate how more vs. less language overlap, intonation, and proficiency influence the activation of L1 while processing in L2 and L1.

For further information please contact


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Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

The University of Nottingham

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