sharon unsworth


Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition

Department of English Language and Culture

Department of Linguistics

Centre for Language Studies

Radboud University Nijmegen

+31 24 3612903

s dot unsworth
at let dot ru dot nl

research interests

My research focuses on the linguistic development of bilingual children and the role of various factors affecting bilingual and second language acquisition, including age of onset, and amount and type of language exposure. My main research question is:

Which factors contribute to successful second / bilingual language acquisition in childhood?

I am working on child second language acquisition in both naturalistic and instructed settings. My recent work focuses on the following populations:

•children acquiring two languages (English/Dutch, Italian/Dutch) from birth

•English-speaking children acquiring Dutch as a second language at primary school

•children acquiring Dutch as a second language at preschool (voorschool and peuterspeelzalen)

•bilingual and trilingual children attending bilingual nursery programmes

•Dutch-speaking children learning English at primary school

Much of my work adopts a comparative approach, contrasting the developmental paths, error types and ultimate attainment of different learner populations, namely simultaneous and successive bilingual children, second language children and adults, bilingual and monolingual children. I am interested in addressing the methodological challenges such cross-group comparisons involve and to this end, I have tried to develop tools to facilitate such comparisons, including a proficiency measure for children and adults, and a digital parental questionnaire which can be used to automatically calculate amount and type of language exposure for children growing up with more than one language.

My research examines the acquisition of morphosyntax , syntax-semantics, and vocabulary, including specific target language properties such as grammatical gender, word order, subject-verb agreement and direct object scrambling. Typically, I make use of offline procedures such as elicited production, grammaticality judgement and truth value judgement tasks, as well as a range of standardised language assessment tests. 

I am passionate about transmitting scientifically-grounded information about bilingualism and bilingual children to parents, teachers and teacher trainees, and other interested parties. For more information, click here.

For more information about my research projects, click here.