Bilingualism and multilingualism in young children: Exploring the impact on learning, literacy and communication

   School of Social Sciences

  Dr Lynne Duncan  Tuesday, October 31, 2023  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Early development in a bilingual or multilingual context presents both opportunities and challenges for a young child. Much of the research on this issue adopts a general perspective on multilingual learners but this project aims to examine issues specific to the particular languages that the child is learning. The languages under investigation are not fixed in advance and could include European/Non-European or majority/minority languages (e.g. Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Gaelic, etc.), although a detailed knowledge of the languages in question would be preferable. The focus of interest will be determined by the interests and expertise of the student but the project will examine how knowledge of multiple languages is acquired and organised. Possible topics of interest could include: early word learning; syntactic development; code-switching/translanguaging; morphological knowledge; conceptual representation; phonological/orthographic processing; L1/L2 (pre-)literacy acquisition; or developmental language disorders.

This project will be based in Dr Lynne Duncan’s Language and Learning Lab (, which has excellent facilities for online and offline experimental work. The Lab also has well-established links with policy and practice for research collaboration via the LALco network (, which was co-founded by Dr Duncan. This is a highly interdisciplinary PhD project and so applications are invited from strong and motivated candidates with backgrounds in a relevant subject, such as Psychology, Linguistics, Speech & Language Therapy or another related discipline. The specialisation in the PhD would be in Psychology (PhD in Psychology).

For more information about Dr Duncan, please see her research profile.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Lynne Duncan ()

For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Our research community thrives on the diversity of students and staff which helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for postgraduate research. We welcome applications from all talented individuals and are committed to widening access to those who have the ability and potential to benefit from higher education.


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent for non-UK qualifications). For international qualifications, please see equivalent entry requirements here:

In certain circumstances candidates may be asked to spend a year completing our Master's degree in Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Language or Psychological Research Methods before commencing their doctoral research. The decision about the suitability of their qualifications is made by the supervisor and the School’s postgraduate advisor.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in writing and not less than 5.5 in reading, listening and speaking). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here:


Step 1: Email Dr Lynne Duncan () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Duncan, formal applications can be made via our direct application system. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates must apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Psychology using our direct application system: Psychology.

Please select the degree length (three year or four year), study mode (full-time/part-time) and start date agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the Research Proposal section, please:

-       Enter the lead supervisor’s name in the ‘proposed supervisor’ box

-       Enter the project title listed at the top of this page in the ‘proposed project title’ box

In the ‘personal statement’ section, please outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

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