Who is running this project?

This project is led by Dr Ian Cunnings and Dr Hiroki Fujita in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences. It is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant.

What is this project about?

This project examines how a phenomena known as ‘similarity-based interference’ influences language comprehension in second language learners of English. Certain types of sentences, such as ‘It was the boy that the girl chased yesterday afternoon’, can cause difficulty during comprehension, as readers may get confused about who did want to whom. Recent research has indicated that similarity between the words and phrases within a sentence can increase comprehension difficulty, with sentences becoming easier to understand if certain phrases are dissimilar. For example, instead of having two nouns (‘the boy’ and ‘the girl’), a sentence may become easier if one of the individuals is introduced using a proper name (e.g. ‘It was the boy that Susan chased yesterday afternoon’). This project utilises different experimental methods, including eye-tracking during reading and web-based language experiments, to investigate how similarity-based interference influences first and second language comprehension. The project will inform our understanding about which properties of language comprehension may be particularly difficult in a second language. For more information, please see the project webpage at the Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics Lab website.