A strategic partnership for the study of Portuguese in multilingual settings

Tag: Lancaster

British Council award for Lancaster team’s comics app to support language learners

A Lancaster University-led project team have won a highly prestigious British Council ELTons Innovation Award  for work on an imaginative comics app to help dyslexic and non-dyslexic learners learn a second language.

The project was also given a Judges’ Commendation for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

The CIELL App project was led by Dr Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster’s Department of Educational Research and also included Professor Judit Kormos, Professor of Second Language Acquisition at Lancaster and HL2C Scientific Advisory Board member, as well as colleagues from Germany, Greece and Cyprus. The project was co-funded by ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Union.

This very important award in the world of English language teaching is given in recognition of their international project “Comics for Inclusive English Language Learning” (CIELL) which aims to develop the competences of second language learners by promoting the use of comic art and other visual representations. The project also aims to enhance the quality of language teaching materials used for teaching writing in a second language by supporting the needs of dyslexic learners in a socially inclusive manner.

The CIELL App offers an inclusive, gamified approach to learning how to plan an essay at intermediate and advanced levels of English language proficiency. The award recognises that the app is designed to support students, with and without dyslexia, and offers an inclusive, gamified approach to learning how to plan an essay.

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference characterized by difficulties with word decoding, spelling, handwriting, reading, memory and attention span which affects around 10% of the population.

Many congratulations to all those involved in this important project!

For additional information, please visit the the CIEL app website, the original news source (Lancaster University website), or contact Dr Julie-Ann Sime.

Launch of the British National Corpus 2014

Many congratulations to our colleagues at Lancaster’s Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS), one of the HL2C founding institutes, for the official launch of the British National Corpus 2014.

The British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2014, website) is a large collection of samples of contemporary British English language use, gathered from a range of real-life contexts. The BNC2014 contains millions of words of spoken and written English and is an exciting new resource for research and teaching on contemporary British English.

The BNC2014 is being gathered by Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press. It is the successor to the original British National Corpus, which was gathered in the early 1990s. By comparing the two corpora, researchers will be able to shed light on how British English may have changed over the last two decades. The BNC2014 is now available together with its predecessor the BNC1994 via #LancBox X.

The written BNC was official launched on November 19, 2021. Please see below for a short summary on the launch event. For more information on the BNC2014, please the CASS website or contact Dr Vaclav Brezina.

Celebrating the Written BNC2014: Lancaster Castle event

On 19 November 2021, The ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) organised an event to celebrate the launch of the Written British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2024). The event was live-streamed from a very special location: the medieval Lancaster Castle.  There were about 20 participants on the site and more than 1,200 participants joined the event online.  Dr Vaclav Brezina started the event and welcomed the participants from over 30 different countries. After the official welcome by Professor Elena Semino and Professor Paul Connolly, a series of invited talks were delivered by prominent speakers from the UK and abroad. The talks covered topics such as corpus development, corpora in the classroom, corpora and fiction and the historical development of English.

Please visit the CASS website for more information on the event, including slides.

Faculty positions at Lancaster University

Job opportunity at Lancaster University (Deadline for applications: 13 December 2021 – please share widely) 

Lancaster University (Psychology Department) is currently advertising two positions at Senior Lecturer/Reader level (US equivalent: Associate Professor). The search area is broad, including infancy and early development, using both behavioural and neuroscience approaches.

We have fantastic, shared research facilities for infant development in our Babylab, which covers the entire ground floor of our dedicated research building (see http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/babylab/), with several Tobii eye trackers, 4 EGI EEG systems, fNIRS, head mounted eye tracking, motion capture, BioPac, and an observation room, plus excellent technical support. Our dedicated administrator maintains an extensive database of contacts, and there is free parking for visiting parents outside the lab. We are organizing one of the largest infancy conferences in Europe every year (Lancaster International Conference on Infant and Early Child Development – LCICD, http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/lcicd/ ).

 Current research interests in the group comprise early language, social and cognitive development in typically and atypically (ASD) developing infants and children. Please see our research pages for more details: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/psychology/research/

Lancaster University is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the main UK league tables, and Lancaster has a high quality of life with beautiful surrounding countryside, good schools, and excellent transport links (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow 2.5h, Manchester airport 1.5h, all by direct train).

If you have any questions, you can email me (g.westermann@lancaster.ac.uk) or the Head of Department, Kate Cain (psychology.hod@lancaster.ac.uk). Full details are here: https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A3553

Webinar: Raising a Bilingual Child Today

On Wednesday 6th October, 2021, the challenges and opportunities surrounding language learning and bilingual development were discussed by a panel of leading experts. These included Paul Dunne, Headmaster of St. John Bosco College in Battersea; Patrick Rebuschat, Professor of linguistics and cognitive science at Lancaster University and Director of the Heritage Language 2 Consortium; Federica Piedimonte, Teacher of Italian language and culture teacher; and Agnieszka Derleta,  Head of Polish/English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department at St Thomas More in Bedford.

Both the presentations and audience’s contributions  were very insightful and the webinar offered some very exciting leads to further discussions.

The event was a joint initiative of St. John Bosco College, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, the Camões Instiute, and the Italian General Consulate in London.

Please see the YouTube link below to watch the webinar in full.



HL2C Seminar: Acquisition of infinitival constructions in L2 Portuguese

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday, November 17 from 12pm to 1pm GMT (Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Aida Cardoso (Lisbon)


Acquisition of infinitival constructions in L2 Portuguese by Spanish native speakers: A Feature Reassembly approach

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


This talk discusses the acquisition of the Prepositional Infinitival Construction (PIC) as a complement of perception verbs by Spanish learners of European Portuguese (EP).

In Romance languages, the PIC (1) and the Gerund Construction (GC) (2) tend to occur in complementary distribution (Casalicchio, 2019). This is the case in EP and Spanish: Only the PIC is available (in the standard variety) in EP, whereas only the GC is available in Spanish. What is more, both languages make available other infinitival constructions that can also occur as complements of perception verbs (e.g., ECM).


O professor viu-os a ler a gramática.

the teacher saw-CL.ACC to.ASP read.INF the grammar

“The teacher saw them reading the grammar.”


O professor viu-os a lerem a gramática.

the teacher saw-CL.ACC to.ASP read.INF.3PL the grammar

“The teacher saw them reading the grammar.”


Vi a Juan conduciendo una furgoneta blanca.

saw.1SG A Juan driving.GER a van white

“I saw Juan driving a white van.”

[Rafel 1999: 202 (44a)]

Crucially, the PIC and the GC share semantic and syntactic properties (both being analysed as small clauses): They both have a progressive aspectual value, and they are traditionally analysed as small clauses (Raposo, 1989; Rafel, 2000; Barbosa & Cochofel, 2005; Casalicchio, 2019). However, the progressive aspectual value has different morphological counterparts in both languages. In Spanish, it corresponds to a Gerund verb form and in EP to an aspectual head (the preposition a, ‘to’) plus an inflected or uninflected infinitival verb form (Duarte, 1992).

Following the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (Lardiere, 2008, 2009), we predict that Spanish learners will have difficulties reassembling the aspectual features of the GC into the ones of the PIC due to difficulties identifying the contrasts in the respective morphological counterparts. Furthermore, we hypothesise that Spanish learners will perform better considering the PIC with uninflected infinitive than with inflected infinitive since Spanish does not make available complements with inflected infinitives, and consequently, the acquisition of such structures entails a feature addition task (namely, ɸ-features).

Three experimental tasks were designed in order to collect complementary data on the acquisition of the PIC: an acceptability judgment task (AJT), a sentence completion task (SCT) and a forced choice task (FCT). For each task, we tested a control group of monolingual EP speakers and three groups of adult Spanish learners of EP (formal instruction context) with distinct levels of proficiency: initial, intermediate, and advanced. In the AJT, we compared the acceptability rates of PIC with inflected and uninflected infinitive; in the SCT, the preference rates of the inflected and uninflected infinitive PIC with another infinitival complement only available in EP: the Inflected Infinitive structure; and, in the FCT, the preference rates of the inflected infinitive PIC with a non-standard structure (Accusative subject plus inflected infinitive) with similarities to the Exceptional Case Marking (ECM), a structure available in both languages.

The data from the three tasks show that Spanish learners struggle with PIC even in advanced levels of proficiency. Overall, we found statistically significant differences between the control group and all test groups (p<.05), indicating a lower acceptance rate of PIC by the latter. The AJT and the SCT show that Spanish learners prefer PIC with uninflected infinitives.

Furthermore, the FCT shows that all L2 groups tend to reject PIC with inflected infinitive in favour of the non-standard structure closer to ECM (a complement structure available both in the L1 and the L2). Additionally, in the corrections provided in the AJT, Spanish learners do not replace PIC by GC, but mainly by instances of ECM. We hypothesise that this difficulty in acquiring the PIC may result from a difficulty in reassembling the relevant features and from an L1 pre- emption effect (Iverson & Rothman, 2014): Spanish learners may unconsciously deem the properties of the ECM structure of their L1 as sufficient to account for the EP input.


Barbosa, P. & F. Cochofel (2005). A construção de infinitivo preposicionado em PE. In I. Duarte & I. Leiria (orgs.), Actas do XX Encontro Nacional da Associação Portuguesa de Linguística. Lisboa: APL/Edições Colibri, 387-400.

Casalicchio, J. (2019). Gerunds become prepositional infinitives in Romance Small Clauses: the effects of later Merge to the syntactic spine. Probus 31 (1), 75-117.

Duarte, I. (1992). Complementos Infinitivos Preposicionados e Outras Construções Temporalmente Defectivas em Português Europeu. In Actas do VIII ENAPL. Lisboa: Colibri.

Iverson, M. & Rothman, J. (2014). Object drop in L2 Spanish, (complex) feature reassembly and L1 pre-emption. In: Judy, T. & Perpiñán, S. (eds.) The Acquisition of Spanish anish in Understudied Language Pairings. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Lardiere, D. (2008). Feature-Assembly in Second Language Acquisition. In J. Liceras, H. Zobl & H. Goodluck (eds.), The role of formal features in second language acquisition. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lardiere, D. (2009). Some thoughts on the contrastive analysis of features in second language acquisition. Second Language Research 25(2), 173-227.

Rafel, J. (1999). Complex Small Clauses. PhD Dissertation. UAB.

Raposo, E. P. (1989). Prepositional infinitival constructions in European Portuguese. In O. Jaegli & K.J. Safir (eds.), The Null Subject Parameter. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

HL2C Seminar: Phonological categorization of L2 Portuguese

Our next HL2C seminar will take place on Wednesday, October 20 from 12pm to 1pm UK time (same as Lisbon). This talk is a joint initiative with Lancaster’s SLLAT Research Group.


Gabriela Tavares (NOVA University Lisbon), Andrea Deme (Hungarian Academy of Sciences & Eötvös Loránd University), and Susana Correia (NOVA University Lisbon)


Phonological categorization of L2 Portuguese by Hungarian native speakers

How to join:

Our seminars are free to attend. Simply sign up to the HL2C Mailing List to receive the link to join us via Microsoft Teams link. You do not need a Teams account to access the talk.


Empirical observations in the classroom suggest that Hungarian learners of L2 European Portuguese (EP) have difficulties acquiring variable stress and vowel reduction – in particular the two EP reduced vowels [ɐ] and [ɨ] – since these are absent in the Hungarian phonological system [1]. These features are essential from an intelligibility perspective, since in EP stress is variable and lexically contrastive [2] and vowel reduction is found to be the main clue for stress perception in this language [3].

In this talk, we will present results of the first experiment of a larger project that seeks to develop pedagogical interventions that facilitate the acquisition of L2 Portuguese phonology. In this first step, we developed and empirically validated a forced-choice identification task to map the categorization of the EP oral vowels by Hungarian speakers in their native phonological system.

This presentation will report the results of this forced-choice identification task. Forty-six Hungarian native speakers (age range 18 to 45) took part in this experiment. One group (n=32) had no experience in learning EP; the other group (n = 14) consisted of learners of EP with approximately two semesters of language classes (n=14). A group with native Portuguese speakers with no previous contact with Hungarian (n=30) served as our baseline condition. Participants completed a forced- choice identification task that required them to identify different auditory tokens of the nine EP oral vowels, inserted in a [ɡV] context, among a set of real Hungarian words with a [ɡV]CV structure, presented orthographically in a grid.

We predicted that the ability of Hungarian native speakers to identify and discriminate contrastive EP sounds would depend on the phonetic proximity of EP vowels with Hungarian sounds [4, 5, 6]. Accordingly, we hypothesized that these speakers would categorize the unstressed vowel [ɐ] into /ɛ/, /eː/ or /ø/, and [ɨ] into /y/ or /ø/, as these are the closest L1 categories to the L2 vowels. We also expected some differences to occur after exposure to the target-language, and that these differences would be reflected in the categorization results. Results have partly confirmed the expectations, as [ɐ] was categorized into /ɛ/, but not into /eː/, and [ɨ] was categorized into /y/ and /ø/. A comparison of data in the two experimental groups suggests a learning effect for [ɨ], but not for [ɐ].

The data collected in this experiment shows overlapping situations in contrasts with [ɐ] and [ɨ]. According to the results, Hungarian speakers identify both non-native [ɐ] and [ɨ] into the single native category /ɛ/, which possibly causes discrimination difficulties [4]. As for [ɨ], considering that this segment is identified as a separated Hungarian category – /y/ or /ø/ –, discrimination of contrasts with this vowel won’t be problematic [4].

According to the above mentioned, an auditory perceptual training focused on tuning [ɐ] into a new category, separating it from /ɛ/, is expected to improve Hungarian speakers’ ability to perceive better this EP vowel. To test this hypothesis, we are currently designing a sequence of oddity discrimination tasks focused on the overlapping situations mentioned above. This perceptual training will be followed by Hungarian learners of L2 Portuguese within a 5-week timeframe.

[1] Markó A. (2017). Hangtan. In A. Imrényi, N. Kugler, M. Ladányi, A. Markó, Sz. Tátrai, & G. Tolcsvai Nagy (Eds). Nyelvtan (pp. 75–206). Budapest: Osiris Kiadó.

[2] Raposo, E., Nascimento, M. F., Mota, M. A., Segura, L., Mendes, A., & A. Andrade (Eds.) (2020). Gramática do Português. Vol. III. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

[3] Correia, S., Butler, J., Vigário, M. & S. Frota (2015). A stress “deafness” effect in European Portuguese. Language and Speech 58(1): 48–67.

[4] Best, C. T. (1995). A direct-realist view of cross-language perception. In W. Strange (Ed.). Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 171–204). Baltimore: York Press.

[5] Flege, J. E. (2003). Assessing constraints on second-language segmental production and perception. In N. O. Schiller & A. S. Meyer (Eds.). Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production: Differences and Similarities (pp. 319–355). Berlin: De Gruyter.

[6] Escudero, P. (2015). Linguistic Perception and Second Language Acquisition: Explaining the Attainment of Optimal Phonological Categorization. [Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University, LOT Dissertation Series 113]. Repository: http://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/7349.

HL2C Seminars 2021-2022

It’s a pleasure to share the program of this year’s HL2C seminar series with you. We might still not be able to travel as easily as before, but in the meantime, we can meet digitally on a regular basis. 

Our program: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/heritage-language/seminars/ 

The program for 2021/2022 is not finalized yet, but we are excited about how it is taking shape. As you will see, there will be a mix between internal (HL2C) and external speakers, early-career and more senior researchers. The sessions will cover a wide range of themes (second and heritage language acquisition and teaching, bilingualism, etc.), different languages and populations of interest, and a variety of approaches (quantitative and qualitative), fully reflecting the broad interests of the HL2C member institutions. While most talks focus on research, we are also inviting other stakeholders (policy makers, non-profits, etc.) to do presentations. 

How to attend: All talks will take place via Microsoft Teams. We will circulate the link via the HL2C mailing list one week before the talk and send a reminder one day before the talk. To join the mailing list, please click here.

Talks will be delivered in English. The sessions should last one hour – about 40 minutes of talk, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. Some of the talks will be recorded and made available for viewing via the mailing list.