Skip to main content
Research project

Meaning in Language Learning - R Slabakova AHRC

Project overview

The aim of this grant was to establish a new, UK-based international research network devoted to integrating insights from theoretical linguistic
research with insights from the reality of the language classroom, in order to develop a programme of research into new approaches to fostering the acquisition of meaning in the L2 classroom. See more details at

The network was based at the Universities of York and Southampton and included 7 core and 11 associate members in the UK, as well as 4 international members. A series of teacher-researcher workshops and focus groups with teachers were held, whose input was overwhelmingly positive. A number of short videos aimed at language teachers and learners were created (see project website), in order to showcase examples of meaning phenomena in different languages that have been found to be important in linguistic research but that are not treated in language teaching textbooks.

A colloquium entitled "What does meaning mean in second language learning?" was presented at the internationally important conference of the European Second Language Association (EuroSLA) in 2016.

The investigators edited a special issue of journal Language Teaching Research, (Impact Factor 3.89), addressing the network topic through experimental studies.


Lead researcher

Professor Roumyana Slabakova

Chair in Applied Linguistics

Research interests

  • Roumyana Slabakova's research is grounded in generative linguistic theory and explores the second language (L2) acquisition process. Her theoretical focus is the acquisition of grammatical structure and its interaction with meaning. She uses online and offline psycholinguistic methodologies to investigate the following theoretical issues: 
  • What is the linguistic nature of the bilingual and multilingual grammar?Are there some properties of language (e.g. words, sounds, sentence structure) that are easier to acquire than others (e.g. functional morphemes, grammatical meanings)? Are there are some properties, such as pragmatic universals, that will come for free in the grammar of the learner?Can lexical, phrasal and sentence meaning be acquired in the L2? How does the interface between form and meaning affect the L2 acquisition of meaning?What is the effect of the native language in the acquisition of a second language? What are the effects of the native and the second language in the acquisition of a third language?How does linguistic and processing complexity affect knowledge of meaning in the L2? How do children acquiring their native language and adult L2 learners compare in this respect?

Research outputs

Heather Marsden,
, 2019 , Language Teaching Research , 23 (2) , 147--157
Type: article
to top