The Comparative Psycholinguistics of Multilingualism

Our goal is to understand how children and adults learn language and how our brain/mind represents and processes language. We aim to elucidate how multiple languages interact in the multilingual mind and how speakers navigate different languages and linguistic repertoires. Moreover, we study language use in real time in order to understand how language teaching interacts with language learning and processing. We do research in the following areas:

English as the L1 and English as the L2

We study how monolingual and bilingual children acquire the morphosyntax of English and/or German and how child acquisition compares to adult learning in different naturalistic and classroom contexts. We have been doing research on the following topics:

  • Code-Mixing in German-English bilingual children (Comes-Koch)
  • Acquisition and Processing of Case and Gender in L2 German by L1 English learners (Hopp)
  • Acquisition of Finiteness in L1 English children (Schüttler)

English as an L2 and English as an L3

We study how the acquisition of English as a second language (L2) compares to the acquisition of English as an L3 in children and adults in order to find out whether the L1 or the L2 affect further languages in differential ways (cross-linguistic influence).

  • Sprachliche und kognitive Ressourcen der Mehrsprachigkeit im Englischerwerb in der Grundschule (MEG-SKoRe; mit Dieter Thoma & Rosemarie Tracy, Mannheim)


Acquisition and Processing at the Grammatical Interfaces

We study how bilingual and L2 learners acquire and process grammatical knowledge in and across different domains of language (e.g. morphology, lexicon, syntax, semantics). We are particularly interested in how native and non-native speakers break down words into smaller parts (morphology) and how they build sentence structure (syntax) in real- time language processing.

  • Acquisition of Word order and Information Structure in L2 English (Comes-Koch)
  • Morphological Processing: Inflection, Derivation and Compounding (Heyer)
  • Lexical effects on syntactic processing in adult L2 learners (Hopp)
  • Predictive Processing in L2 Learners (Hopp)
  • Individual differences in grammatical L2 processing (Hopp)
  • Grammatical Interfaces in L2 Processing (Hopp)

Linguistic and Cognitive Aspects of Multilingualism

We study cross-linguistic influences in multilingual speakers and how knowledge and use of more than one language affects metalinguistic awareness and cognitive processing. In a joint project with the University of Mannheim (MEG-SkoRE), we investigate whether early multilingualism provides any general (cognitive) benefits in English language acquisition in primary school and/or whether specific language structures and features of the first and second languages transfer into English.

  • Sprachliche und kognitive Ressourcen der Mehrsprachigkeit im Englischerwerb in der Grundschule (MEG-SKoRe)

Language Attrition and Language Contact

We study how cross-linguistic influence from a dominant L2 can lead to erosion of the native language in different populations and how development in language attrition compares to L2 acquisition.

  • Language Attrition and L2 acquisition (Hopp)
  • Language Attrition and Grammatical Restructuring (Hopp)

Language Processing and Language Learning

We study how instruction and teaching can change the implicit processing of grammatical knowledge in child and adult L2 learners.

  • Morphological Processing: Effects of Instruction and Exposure (Heyer)
  • Language Teaching and Syntactic Processing (Hopp)

Child Bilingualism and Multilingualism

We study how bilingual children learn to separate the two languages they acquire and the factors that cause morphosyntactic and lexical mixing.

  • Code-Mixing in German-English bilingual children (Comes-Koch)

Language Learning and Conceptualization

We study bilingual students’ linguistic construal of mathematical objects and relations in order to gain insight into the cognitive representation of concepts.

  • Mathematical Conceptualization and Linguistic Construal (Flohr)


In our department, we use different types of methods, combining qualitative and quantitative analyses. In our eye-tracking lab (opening soon), we have a state-of-the art remote and portable eye-tracker. In eye-tracking, participants read sentences or look at pictures while listening to language. A camera records their eye-movements up to 500 times a second in order to measure how they understand language. We also have several reaction-time computers, on which we run experiments about real-time language comprehension and production (e.g. lexical decision, priming, self-paced reading, etc.). We also use questionnaires, on-line surveys and speech and language recordings to analyse language acquisition and processing. Our experimental work links up with corpus work, and we have a rich collection of language (learning) corpora on English and German.

Student Involvement

We place a great emphasis on students’ participation in research. Our teaching is research-driven, and students get involved in research in the department, and they design their own research projects for their finals’ theses.

English Linguistics in the TU context

As an Institute of Technology, the TU Braunschweig places its emphasis on technology and related disciplines such as engineering and natural sciences. The Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences integrates into the overall TU profile. In English Linguistics, our experimental research uses state-of-the-art technology and is based on quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical research. We use technical methods of data collection and statistical data analysis. We encourage and value exchange and dialogue across disciplines, as is also evident in our participation in the interdisciplinary Master’s programme “Kultur der technisch-wissenschaftlichen Welt” (Culture of the Technological and Scientific World).

International Cooperations

The department and our team have collaborations with many partners in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and other countries.

We are a member of the international PIRE network (http://www.psu.edu/dept/cls/pire), in which many international partners collaborate. We regularly host visiting (graduate) students from Pennsylvania State University (USA) and other places, and we can send our students to our international partner institutions.

  last changed 15.12.2017
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