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Development of Word Learning Heuristics in Monolingual and Bilingual Infants

Project Description

Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

3 Year, full-time funded PhD studentship
Project title: Development of Word Learning Heuristics in Monolingual and Bilingual Infants
Eligibility: Home UK/EU applicants who must be permanently resident in UK/EU
Closing date: 14 November 2019
Interviews: 10 December 2019
Start date: January 2020
Bursary p.a: £15,009 for 3 years
University fees and bench fees at the Home/EU rate will be met by the University for the 3 years of the Studentship.

Supervisors: Prof. Vincent Connelly, Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez, Dr Olivia Afonso.

There is ample evidence that infants utilise a range of word learning heuristics that enable them to build vocabulary. Research has suggested that many of these heuristics rely on internal constraints and biases that limit the potential referents of an unknown word or phrase, therefore, often allowing an infant to form a reliable prediction of meanings. However, at present, the vast majority of research on these heuristics is based upon monolingual infants and often investigates each heuristic in isolation.

Bilingualism is particularly interesting in relation to many of these heuristics as a multilingual language environment has several key differences in comparison to a monolingual setting . In fact, the mere principle of learning two or more languages can be considered to contradict the theories of some of these heuristics. Additionally, the study of these heuristics in isolation does not present a realistic representation of how infants are exposed to information and cues in their environment (e.g., combining referential cues with syntactic cues)

A PhD in this area would aim to further understanding of the development of word learning heuristics in monolingual and bilingual infants. This could include whether these populations demonstrate different patterns in the development and use of word learning heuristics, or how they combine information from different sources to form word meaning predictions. The successful applicant will be expected to design and run studies, analyse and interpret experimental data. There is an additional requirement to undertake up to 6 hours undergraduate teaching/week during semesters and to participate in a teaching skills course without further remuneration.

For further information contact:

Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez

Applicants should have (or be expecting) a first class or upper second class honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or acceptable equivalent qualification in psychology or related cognate discipline (knowledge of research design and statistics is essential). EU Applicants must have a valid IELTS Academic test certificate with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued in the last 2 years by an approved test centre. We are prepared to consider alternative acceptable evidence of English Language ability.

Funding Notes

How to apply:
Applications should be sent to and should include the following form
(View Website) Applications should include the application form, a CV, copies of degree certificates and a project proposal (max 2000 words) including background, aims and an outline of how those aims will be addressed. Applicants can liaise with Professor Vincent Connelly when developing their proposal.


Completion of a DBS check is required on enrolment the cost of this will be covered by the University.

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