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Settling into a new linguistic landscape: tracking the language acquisition of new arrival children in East London

   Department of Linguistics

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  Dr Kathleen McCarthy  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project will start on October 1st 2022 in the Department of Linguistics Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with Tower Hamlets Education Partnership. The primary supervisor is Dr Kathleen McCarthy. The student will be co-supervised (20%) by Dr Rachel Humphris from the School of Politics and International Relations, QMUL. The student will be based in the QMUL Language Acquisition Lab, as part of the Experimental Linguistics Research Group.

The project can be offered as a 1+3 (MRes + PhD) or a +3 (PhD). The specific route will depend on the student's previous training, in particular if they meet the ESRC's core research methods training requirements, see here.

Project summary

Every year thousands of children migrate to the UK from countries around the world. This complex group varies considerably, in terms of age of arrival, reasons for migration, educational experience, and their heritage language. A large proportion of new arrivals start school in the UK with limited previous educational experience and knowledge of English. Whilst many children who have English as an additional language do very well in school, many new arrival children do not reach the English language levels required to fully access the curriculum (Strand & Lindorff, 2020). Whilst there is growing recognition that we must provide tailored support for this group, there is limited research on the language acquisition trajectories of new arrival children, and their heritage languages are often hugely understudied. In collaboration with the Tower Hamlets Education Partnership (THEP), this project will track the speech and language acquisition of primary-school-aged new arrival children in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, UK. We will take a cross-linguistic approach to understand how the linguistic structure of the heritage language (L1) and age of acquisition influences new arrivals’ acquisition of English (L2). The project will adopt a longitudinal design to track the earliest stages of L2 speech and language acquisition, and the changes that occur with increased experience in the L2. The findings from this project will advance our understanding of language acquisition in new arrival children, providing vital foundational research needed to inform educational practice and policy.

Essential Criteria

Applicants should have, or expect to receive, a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or first class) in Linguistics, Psychology or a related field. If applying for the +3 studentship, the student should have a Masters degree (Merit or above) in Linguistics or Psychology and training in quantitive and qualitative research methods.

Training and/or an interest in child language acquisition, multilingualism, and understudied languages and communities

Excellent communication skills and an ability to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team

Desirable criteria

Experience with working with children and families, in a research or educational setting

Experience with methodological software (e.g. R, Matlab, Gorilla)

Advanced training in phonetics, phonology, and child language acquisition


Funding is available to cover the cost of UK home/international tuition fees* plus a stipend of £17,609 per annum. Other funds are also available for research costs. See *note below for non-UK applicants.

How to apply

If you have any questions about the project and studentship email Kathleen McCarthy: [Email Address Removed]. Interested candidates should apply by emailing the following documents to Huw Jones: [Email Address Removed].

1. An up-to-date CV

2. A personal statement including why you are interested in undertaking the project, what relevant skills, training and knowledge you would bring to the project; and any ideas you have for executing the named project (max 1 page)

3. A completed application form for the position available here (note: an additional application to the QMUL Linguistics doctoral programme will be required for the successful candidate)

4. Academic transcripts

5. Contact details for 2 referees, at least one of which should be a recent academic referee

We strongly encourage applications from UK students from ethnic minority and underrepresented groups in humanities and social sciences.

Key dates and further information

The deadline for applications is Monday 28 February 2022

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted to arrange interviews, which will take place in the week commencing March 14 2022. Due to the high number of applications, we will not be able to respond to individual candidates.

The successful candidate will be asked to complete an Advanced DBS check upon commencing the post.

*This project is funded by the ESRC in the United Kingdom through the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS DTP) There is scope for some payment of International fees. The ESRC permits the funding of international students in the 2022 cohort (up to a total of 30% of the cohort can be international students). The LISS DTP will only award up to 3 International CASE Studentship Awards (30% of our total CASE Studentships for 2022 Entry).

Funding Notes

Note for non-UK applicants: The ESRC permits the funding of international students in the 2022 cohort (up to a total of 30% of the cohort can be international students). The LISS DTP will award up to 3 International CASE Studentship Awards (30% of our total CASE Studentships for 2022 Entry).
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