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Research Projects

Children's Brains and the Effectiveness of Digitalized Processing Instruction for the acquisition of EFL


(with Dietmar Roehm, University of Salzburg)

Period: 2017 -

Project description: The main objective of this project is to advance our understanding of the neural representation of English morphological processing among school-age children in Austria when exposed to an input-based pedagogical intervention (Processing Instruction), and to use this knowledge to derive practical implications for designing research-informed grammar teaching materials. We use a combination of eye tracking, EEG (electroencephalograhy), ERPs/FRPs (event-related/fixation-related potentials) and fNIRS (functional nearinfrared-spectroscopy) to shed light on the neural basis of PI. 

Uncovering transfer effects in L2/L3 morphosyntactic processing using online methodologies (SPREEG)

(with Dietmar Roehm, University of Salzburg)

Period: 2018 - 

Project description: We are conducting empirical research measuring whether there are any differences in how German learners of L2 English (with no knowledge of other foreign languages) and trilingual learners (with typologically different language backgrounds who use more than two languages daily) process grammatical input (English morphological forms and syntactic structures) and to what extent transfer effects of the background languages are traceable.


Processing Instruction for L3 English: Differences between balanced and unbalanced bilinguals? (PI-BI-L3)

(with Alessandro Benati (Hong Kong University), Dietmar Roehm (PLUS) & Anastazija Kirkova Naskova, University of Skopje)

Period: 01.07.2018-31.12.2021

Funded by the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) (funds from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science (MON))

Project website:

Project description: In an era of fostering multilingualism worldwide, using more than one language daily for the minor ethnic communities is a common practice. It is not quite clear, however, whether bilingual individuals who use more than one language daily, but to different extents and with different proficiencies (i.e. balanced and unbalanced bilinguals) would be more successful when acquiring English as a third language (L3) than learners acquiring English as a second language (L2) with no active use of other foreign languages. The main purpose of the proposed project is to address this gap by testing the effects of an input-based instructional intervention (Processing Instruction) and to find out whether its effects, well established for second language acquisition with learners of various first language backgrounds and across different language combinations, will hold equally true for third language acquirers of English. Reaction times and accuracy-data will be collected within a pre-/posttest design in two multilingual countries (Austria and Macedonia).

Testing the Effectiveness of Processing Instruction and Re-examining Input Processing: New Theoretical and Methodological Developments

(with Alessandro Benati (Hong Kong University),  James Lee (Tech Texas University) and Stephen Doherty (UNSW, Australia), Paul Malovrh (University of South Carolina, USA) and Dietmar Roehm (PLUS))

(funded by two Erasmus + projects with Australia and USA)

Project description: We are currently developing a new research project with a series of experiments to be conducted in our labs exploring theoretical and methodological issues concerning the pivotal role of input and output in Second Language Acquisition. The collaborative project will make use of online measurements by investigating the effect of specific variables on online interpretation tasks, as well as analyzing second-language elicited production. Based on previous research (Benati & Lee, 2008), carried out to measure how treatment of one linguistic form might influence processing another form affected by similar ‘processing problem’, the proposed project will look at the primary, secondary and cumulative effects of Processing Instruction and its components on the acquisition of L2 linguistic features across various target languages.



Current supervised PhD projects

Ilaria Cantoro:

Exploiting Digital Tools for bilingual child care programmes: Focus on language input 

Eleni Korosidou


Katrin Schaipp: 

Assessment of EFL teachers’ competences to teach in multilingual classrooms: diagnostic competences for and decision-making processes in choosing tasks

Sabrina Weinmüller 



Mariia Naumovets (PLUS)

Electrophysiological correlates for the morphosyntactic acquisition of L2/L3 English

Helen Forsyth (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy)

Developmental stages in  child acquisition of English as a Third Language

External examination:

Ilaria Borro (University of Portsmouth)

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Accomplished projects


Processing Instruction and the Age Factor

(with Alessandro Benati, University of Portsmouth - at that time affiliated with University of Greenwich)

Period: 2012-2015

Funded by: The Leverhulme Trust (UK) (incl. a 9-month visiting fellowship for T.Angelovska)

Project description: This project aimed at measuring the effects of Processing Instruction on the acquisition of English simple past tense among school age and adult native speakers of German. This project addressed the question of whether age plays a significant role in the effectiveness of a type of grammar instruction called ‘processing instruction’ (VanPatten, 1996, 2004, 2007). VanPatten’s model of input processing (1996) is the theoretical base that directly informs the practices of processing instruction (PI). Input processing refers to ‘the initial process by which learners connect grammatical forms with their meanings as well as how they interpret the roles of nouns in relationship to verbs’ (VanPatten, 2004: 5). The main purpose of Processing Instruction is ‘to help learners circumvent ineffective processing strategies or to instill appropriate processing strategies, so that they derive better intake from the input’ (Lee and Benati, 2007: 16). We conducted two studies that systematically measured the effects of PI on the acquisition of English simple past tense among school-age and adult native speakers of German in relation to the age factor and cognitive task demands.



Predicting Outcomes in Third Language Acquisition

(with Angela Hahn, LMU Munich)

Period: 2012 - 2016 

Funded by: research grant from  the Bavarian Research Alliance/BayFOR (Germany)

Project description: This project examined the negative interlanguage transfer of the verb-second (V2) by adult speakers with L1 Russian, advanced L2 German and at either elementary or intermediate L3 levels of English, whereby L2 and L3 were acquired subsequently and formally. It questions if and which of the existing L3 transfer models will offer the best prediction for the source of negative interlanguage transfer by responding to two existing gaps: a) taking into consideration the dominant language used on a daily basis and b) comparing spoken and written data. We started from the existing results and non-results of L3 acquisition and developed practical applications as part of the Input-Practice-Output Method showing that a combination of these three phases allows for an individual, learner-centered and teacher’s awareness-based framework in Instructed L3 acquisition.



Language Awareness Raising for L3 Grammar Learning and Teaching 

(with Angela Hahn, LMU Munich)

Period: 2012 - 2016 

Funded by: research grant from the LMU Excellence Funding Scheme ("Forschung entdecken")  upon internal competitive selection and internal funds of the LMU Language Centre (Germany)

Project description: As the consciousness about certain grammar forms and rules often relies on learners’ prior language knowledge, among many other factors, there is a need for exploring the roles of language awareness in the process of L3 grammar learning and teaching. The aim of our project is to illustrate ways of successful language awareness raising one-to-one (teacher-learner) language reflection sessions (LRSs) conducted in a face-to-face setting. The aim of the LRSs is to help learners become aware of particular language problems they had encountered during the L3 writing. To achieve this, we analyse the performance of the language teacher when identifying concrete instances where opportunities to raise language awareness were met and/or missed and by looking at L3 learners’ ways of reflecting on grammar. We base our empirical analyses on two types of data: text writings from L3 learners and corresponding language reflection sessions in which learners reflect on their language used in the written texts.

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