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ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales Collaborative Doctoral Award: Usage-Based Language Learning: How It Works

Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy

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Dr A Buerki No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This studentship is jointly funded by the ESRC Wales DTP and Cardiff University and is a collaboration with project partner SaySomethingin, The primary supervisor is Dr Andreas Buerki:

The project aims to investigate a radically usage-based approach to the learning of second languages (L2s). This topic and the basic parameters of the project are given, but the precise details will be decided jointly by the student, supervisor and collaborating partner, SaySomethingin. Usage-based theories of language and of language learning have become very influential over the past 15 years, including in explaining first language acquisition. However, its insights have not been widely applied to L2 learning where methodology still follows more traditional understandings of language learning. This project addresses this shortcoming by investigating how fully usage-based L2 learning would work. The project therefore represents a unique opportunity to create significant new theoretical insight with clear potential for practical benefit to improve L2 learning techniques. Consequently, the student undertaking the research has the opportunity to make their mark on two highly active areas of linguistic enquiry: usage-based theories and language learning.

Likely research questions include
• How practically feasible is fully usage-based L2-learning?
• What are expected practical advantages and/or disadvantages of a usage-based approach, compared to traditional approaches?
• What adjustments to usage-based theories of language beyond the domain of L2 acquisition are suggested by findings?

The student will be based at Cardiff, but will be expected to visit the project partner SaySomethingin in Ceredigion on occasion for short periods of time. A contribution towards the costs associated with travel and accommodation will be provided by SaySomethingin.

Funding Notes

Studentship Awards commence in October 2020 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant at the RCUK rate subject to UK residency requirements; and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant RTSG. There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including internship opportunities.

Candidates should have an excellent academic background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master’s degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a +3 award.


The awards are available on either a 1+3 or +3 basis. A 1+3 studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A +3 studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent). To gauge whether your existing Masters degree would be enough for you to proceed directly to +3, please compare its coverage with our Masters in Language and Communication Research,

Collaborative awards involve working with a non-academic partner, already written into the specification. The projects associated with these awards are already partially defined in terms of data source, methods and broad theoretical orientation.

Please read the information above that outlines the nature of the project, to ensure you have the necessary interests, skills and academic background for carrying out the research.

Should you have any questions, please contact Dr Andreas Buerki ( before applying.

Short descriptions of the ESRC Wales DTP linguistics pathway, with short profiles of existing and recent funded student projects, can be found here:

Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Language and Communication with a start date of October 2020 by 12 noon:

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select 'I will be applying for a scholarship/grant' and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales Collaborative Doctoral Award: Usage-Based Language Learning: How It Works.

Please contact for information on the required supporting documentation. To request information in Welsh, please contact the Postgraduate Recruitment Team (
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