Professor Martha Young-Scholten
Senior Lecturer in Second Language Acquisition

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7751
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 8708
  • Address: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
    Percy Building
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU


My research, teaching and supervision spans L2 morpho-syntax, L2 phonology, adult immigrant literacy and contact-induced syntactic change. In addition to the languages this involves – English, German and Spanish – I regularly supervise students working on a wide range of languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. My own and students’ recent exploration of extra-linguistic factors, from input to working memory to appropriacy of reading materials, is prompting new cross- disciplinary collaborations.


I was born in Hanover, New Hampshire and in a former life, I was a camp counselor ski instructor, cedar shake packer and Space Needle waitress. I became interested in matters linguistic when the standard German I'd learned was useless when trying to decipher the dialect spoken by my EFL students in the Black Forest. My MA at the University of Washington in Seattle set me on a lifelong course of asking questions others don't when I went back to Baden Württemberg to compare the difficulties primary school dialect speakers and immigrant children in acquiring the inflectional morphology and phonology of the standard variety of German.


I have an MA and a PhD in linguistics from University of Washington (Committee: Ellen Kaisse (chair); committee members: Joe Emonds, Sharon Hargus and Joseph Voyles). Fellowships: MA: 1983-84, DAAD, Southwest German dialects, Universität Tübingen.
PhD: 1988-1989, Fulbright Foundation, German phonology, Universität Bielefeld;

Research Interests

I currently conduct research in four areas
(1) The second language acquisition of morpho-syntax, particularly by naturalistic adult learners
(2)The second language acquisition of phonology and related issues, including orthographic exposure and the phonology-morphology interface
(3)Second language and literacy acquisition by low-educated immigrant adults
(4)Language contact/emerging varieties of Spanish

Current Work

Current projects
Simply cracking good stories. Creating fiction for low-literate adults, with Margaret Wilkinson. (Catherine Cookson Foundation)

Spanish-English Language Contact in the UK: a Comparative Pilot Study
(Newcastle Faculty Research Fund)

Conversation in two languages: parallel single-language talk, with Alan Firth. (Centre for Research in Linguistics & Language Science)

Recent projects
How do uneducated adult immigrants become readers? (British Academy)

Setting Language Acquisition Research to Music (Aimhigher)
Young Ears, Young Tongues concert

For fun:

Postgraduate Supervision

My current students are working on various second language topics including binding, morphosyntax, bilingualism, working memory, morphological awareness and misunderstanding.

Students who have completed their PhDs under my supervision are:

Extensive reading in Taiwan in primary English,
I-Ching Chiang (Newcastle 2009)
Task-based learning in university-level English,
Abdulrahman Amin (Newcastle 2009)
Curriculum, method in Kuwait in primary English,
Nowreyah Al Nouh (Newcastle 2008)
Arabic speakers’ lexical segmentation in English,
Faisal Al Jasser (Newcastle 2008)
Farsi children’s English morphosyntactic development,
Mohsen Mobaraki (Durham 2007)
Input and primary English pronunciation in Thailand,
Suthee Sumdangdej (Durham 2007)
English speakers’ non-nominative subjects in Spanish,
Marcela Cazzoli-Goeta (Durham 2005)
Finnish and English speakers’ Korean stops,
Jeong-Young Kim (Durham 2005)
Dyslexia in Arabic,
Gad Elbeheri (Durham 2004)
Mauritian Creole/French speakers’ English achievement,
Satish Mahadeo (Durham 2004)
Bilinguals’ & English speakers’ Japanese syllable structure,
Naomi Cross (Durham 2002)
Japanese speakers’ attrition of anaphors in English,
Bede McCormack (Durham 2001)
Japanese speakers’ prosodic development in English,
Mamiko Akita (Durham 2001)
Arabic speakers’ acquisition of tense/aspect in English,
Soliman Mazyad (Durham 1999)
English speakers’ Spanish syllable and metrical structure,
Ana Parrondo-Rodríguez (Durham 1999)
Inherent aspect in the L2 English of Farsi speakers,
Ali Jabbari (Durham 1998)
Syntactic symmetry,
Denise Brown (Durham 1996)

Undergraduate Teaching

Introduction to SLA(semester 1)
Starting with an overview of first language acquisition, a range of current issues (sometimes in their historical perspective) is presented in the lecture component. Support seminars involve students working in teams on small-scale studies of second language learners.

Low-Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (semester 2)
Takes a linguo-cognitive perspective on how immigrant adults learning to read for the first time in a second language compare to children learning to read in their first language. Focuses on phonological awareness and on the relationship between emerging reading skills and the acquisition of linguistic competence (in phonology and morphosyntax) and the learning of vocabulary.

Postgraduate Teaching

Introduction to Language Acquisition (semester 1)
With a brief overview of major studies of children’s acquisition of a first language, the central issues and the main approaches to the study of the acquisition of a second language (primarily by adults) are then covered in the lecture component and selected seminal works discussed in seminars.

Cross Linguistic Issues in Second Language Syntax (semester 2)
Builds on Introduction to Language Acquisition to investigate competing hypotheses about the role of UG and the L1 in the L2 acquisition of morphosyntax a range of languages, with an emphasis on French, German and Spanish along with module participants’ native languages, including English.

Phonology in Second Language Acquisition (semester 2)
Rather than focus solely on the now considerable research on L2 phonology, a means of navigation through and around the edges of this body of work is offered. In part I, we concentrate on acquisition of a second phonology but also consider various possible influences on route and end state. In part 2, we consider how phonology can explain variation in the acquisition of morphosyntax.