School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Professor Martha Young-Scholten

Professor of Second Language Acquisition



My research, teaching and supervision spans L2 morpho-syntax, L2 phonology and adult immigrant literacy mostly relating to English and German. I regularly supervise students working on a wide range of languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai. My own and my students’ 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 counsellor, a children's ski instructor, a cedar shake packer and a Seattle Space Needle waitress. I became interested in matters linguistic when the standard German I'd learned was useless when trying to comprehend the German dialect spoken by my EFL students in the Black Forest. I started university and then went back to Baden Württemberg to compare primary school Swabian dialect speakers' and Turkish immigrant children's acquisition of standard German inflectional morphology and phonology. This set me on a lifelong course of asking questions others don't.


I have an MA and a PhD in linguistics from University of Washington in Seattle (committee: Ellen Kaisse (chair); committee members: Joseph Emonds, Sharon Hargus and Joseph Voyles). My data collection was supported by an MA fellowship from 1983 to 1984 (DAAD, Southwest German dialects, Universität Tubingen) and a PhD fellowship from 1988 to 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) Beginners' acquisition of/first exposure to non-mainstream L2s (e.g. Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Tera)  

Current projects

Simply cracking good stories. Creating fiction for low-literate adults, with Margaret Wilkinson

The morphosyntactic development of uninstructed L2 adult learners of English (BA/Leverhulme funding)  

EU-Speak: Training and developing teachers of low-educated immigrant adults  (EU/Grundtvig funding)

The Digital Literacy Instructor, led by Radboud University, Nijmegen (EU/Grundtvig funding)  


For fun

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

PhD Supervision

My current students are working on various second language topics including L2 phonology of French, Japanese; acquisition of L2 English articles; input in a TELL environment; early reading by low-educated adults;  extensive reading; writing simply cracking good stories.

Students who have completed their PhDs under my supervision are:

Eye-tracking of Arabic and Chinese L2 English learners' morphosyntax Walid Kahoul (Newcastle 2014) 

Arabic and Chinese speakers' acquisition of binding in L2 English, Amer Al Kafri (Newcastle 2013) 

Multi-competence in German, Petra Schoofs (Newcastle 2013)

Child L2 English phonology in Hong Kong, Alex Leung (Newcastle 2012)

Working memory and complex syntax in Chinese L2 English, Clare Wright (Newcastle 2011)    

Instructed L2 French morphosyntax, Vivienne Rogers (Newcastle 2011)

The pragmatics of L2 misunderstandings, Enas El-Sadek (Newcastle 2010) 

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.