School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Professor Martha Young-Scholten

Professor of Second Language Acquisition



My research, teaching and supervision spans the second language acquisition of morpho-syntax and of phonology, and the development of reading by adult migrants, mostly relating to English and German. I supervise students working on a range of languages including Arabic, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and Thai. My own and my students’ exploration of extra-linguistic factors, from input to working memory to appropriate of reading materials, is prompting new cross-disciplinary collaborations.


I was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, 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 for my MA returned 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 which haven't yet occurred to others to ask.


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).


I currently conduct research in these areas

  • Second language acquisition of morpho-syntax, particularly by adult migrants with little formal education
  • Second language acquisition of phonology and related issues, including orthographic exposure
  • Second language reading development by migrant adults


The Heritage Language Hub. Helping low-educated migrants maintain their home language:

Simply Cracking Good Stories. Creating fiction for low-literate adults, with Margaret Wilkinson:

2010-present  EU-Speak: Training and developing teachers and tutors who work with low-educated immigrant adults, design of six on-line modules in five languages, funded by Grundtvig and then Erasmus and now offered by volunteer-based board:  

2012-2015 The Digital Literacy Instructor, funded by Grundtvig:

2013-2015 The morphosyntactic development of naturalistic adult learners of L2 English, funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme

Co-editor of two series: De Gruyter Mouton SOLA series and Narr/Francke/Attempo Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Research student supervision (PhDs)

My current students' topics include L2 phonology of French and of L2 English; morphological awareness by bilingual Arabic-English children; literacy and orthography in beginning L2 English phonology; native tone attrition by Mandarin speakers of English; early morphosyntactic development of L2 Mandarin learners; beginning reading with DigLin software; types of exposure in children's early L2 English phonology;L2 Arabic phonology of domestic helpers.  

Students who have recently completed their PhDs with me:

 Recasting and anxiety in L2 English, Khansaa Martakush, 2020


Cantonese vs.Harbinese in L2 English phonology, Xinliang Jiang, 2020


Cognitive load in L2 English, Moddy Kanokpermpoon, 2019


Influence of orthography and literacy in L2 phonology, Saleh Al Azmi, 2019


L2 English reading by migrant adults, Enas Filimban, 2019



An OT account of English borrowings into Arabic, Metab Al Hoody, 2019


Acquisition of liquids in L2 English, Chutichan Nobourtra, 2019  


Attrition of L1 Mandarin tones, Xiangjie Cao, 2018


Teaching of L2 English articles, Jwahir Al Zamil, 2018


Acquisition of L2 morphosyntax in Mandarin, Dongyan Chen, 2018

L2 English phonology by Tera speakers, Rebecca Musa, 2018

Pre- and post-medium of instruction English in Malaysia, Monaliza Sarbini-Zin, 2018

Arabic, Finnish and French pronominal subjects in L2 English, Naif Alsaedi, 2017

Acquisition of English articles by Arabic speakers, Abdulrahman Al Zamil, 2016

Learner tracking in computer-assisted L2 English, Rola Naeb, 2015

Eye-tracking of Arabic and Chinese L2 English learners' morphosyntax, Walid Kahoul, 2014 

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

Multi-competence in German, Petra Schoofs, 2013

Child L2 English phonology in Hong Kong, Alex Leung, 2012

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

Instructed L2 French morphosyntax, Vivienne Rogers, 2011

The pragmatics of L2 misunderstandings, Enas El-Sadek, 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)

For fun

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


Undergraduate Teaching

Introduction to language Acquisition (semester 1)  SEL2086
Starting with an overview of first language acquisition, a range of current issues (sometimes in their historical perspective) is presented in a two-hour lecture component. Support seminars involve students working in teams on small-scale studies of second language learners using data from established corpora, from YouTube or data students themselves.

Immigrant Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (semester 2)  SEL3012
Takes a linguo-cognitive perspective on how adult migrants cope with the many challenges, including literacy, of learning a new language. 

MA Teaching

Introduction to Second Language Acquisition (semester 1)  SEL8643
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. Students work together on a 'first exposure' study for their assessment and discuss selected seminal works on SLA in the weekly two-hour seminars.

Phonology in Second Language Acquisition (semester 2)  SEL8338
Rather than solely 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 also 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.