Antonella Sorace (FBA, FRSE, FRSA, FAAAS)


  • University of Edinburgh
  • Linguistics and English Language
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



Room 2.02, Dugald Stewart Building

3 Charles Street, Edinburgh
Post code


Antonella Sorace (Laurea, University of Rome; MA, University of Southern California; PhD, University of Edinburgh) is Professor of Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and Honorary Professor at University College London. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In her career she has held research appointments and visiting professorships at numerous institutions, including the University of Utrecht, the University of Trondheim, the University of Tromsø, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, the University of Hamburg, and the University of Siena. Her research focuses on a number of interrelated questions that bring together linguistics, experimental psychology and cognitive science, and her research achievements and publications span different sub-fields of scientific enquiry. She is a world leading authority on bilingualism over the lifespan and is particularly well known for her studies of exceptionally talented ("near-native") adult second language speakers; for her research on the changes ("attrition") that take place in the native language of advanced second language speakers; for her investigation of bilingual language acquisition in early and late childhood, and of the effects of bilingualism in non-linguistic domains. She is also internationally known for her contribution to language typology, especially for her research on constrained variation at the lexicon-syntax interface, which she has investigated in many languages, and her studies of gradience in natural language. Moreover, she has given an important contribution to experimental methods in linguistics by pioneering the use of Magnitude Estimation as a technique for the elicitation of linguistic acceptability judgments. She is committed to disseminating the findings of research on bilingualism outside academia and was awarded a Beltane Fellowship for Public Engagement. She is the founding director of the non-profit organisation Bilingualism Matters (, which has a wide international network of branches all over the world, including one in Edinburgh (


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Undergraduate teaching

First Language Acquisition; Child Bilingualism: Language and Cognition; Second Language Acquisition.

Office hours:

By appointment (please email me)

Postgraduate teaching

First Language Acquisition; Child Bilingualism: Language and Cognition; Second Language Acquisition.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

Past PhD students supervised

  • Mattia Zingaretti
  • Fernando Martin-Villena
  • Reham Al Rassi
  • Wenjia Cai
  • Katerina Pantoula
  • Kate Repnik
  • Bérengère Digard
  • Michela Bonfieni
  • Ellise Suffill
  • Hans A. Wilke
  • Lihua Xia
  • Madeleine Long
  • John Sebastian Schutter
  • Bohye
  • Gloria Chamorro
  • Francesca Filiaci
  • Frances Wilson
  • Anna Leonard Cook
  • Robert Maier
  • Ruth Hanson
  • Froso Argyri
  • Susanna Flett
  • Sonia Rocca
  • Carmen Santos-Maldonado
  • Charlotte Kemp
  • Frank Keller
  • Ludovica Serratrice
  • Catherine Rice
  • Szilvia Papp
  • Satsuki Nakai
  • Ineke Mennen
  • Cathy Benson
  • Sibusisiwe Dube
  • Hemamala Ratwatte
  • Gina Netto
  • Angela Idem
  • Boping Yuan
  • David Hill
  • Daniel Robertson
  • Gladys Tang
  • Sinfree Makoni
  • Anne Donaldson

Research summary

Language development in child and adult bilinguals; bilingualism and general cognition; gradience at the lexicon-syntax interface. I direct the the non-profit organisation Bilingualism Matters (

Current research interests

My research is interdisciplinary and experimental and broadly focuses on variation and optionality in speakers with stable and developing language competence. In single-authored work and in collaborative research I have investigated the cognitive aspects of language and language development in a wide range of domains, including the morphosyntactic development in child and adult monolingual and bilingual speakers, the reciprocal effects of bilingualism and general cognition, and gradience at the lexicon-syntax interface in natural language. I have also pioneered and opened the way for the use of new methodologies for the elicitation of acceptability judgments in experimental linguistics.

Knowledge exchange

I am proud to have established the organisation Bilingualism Matters (  as a model of academic public engagement. I strongly believe that researchers have a responsibility to communicate the results of research in an accessible way to the general public. Bilingualism Matters is having an impact on communities, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, at different levels: families, schools, health services, policy makers. It has also developed a large network of branches all over the world.

Project activity

I have held and currently hold several externally-funded projects, as a principal investigator or as a co-investigator, in collaboration with researchers from universities in the UK, in Europe, and in the US. The funding agencies awarding these grants include the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRC), the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the European Commission, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Norwegian Research Council, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Current project grants

2021-23 ERASMUS+: “Teacher Education about Multilingualism (TEAM)” (as international partner).

Past project grants

2021-22 FIRAH: “Understanding the impact of bilingualism for autistic children” (as co-investigator).
2020-21 UNA-EUROPA: “A Linguistic Investigation of Hate Speech: How to identify it and how to avoid it (ALIHAS)” (as senior international partner).
2019-22 SSHRC: “Bilingualism Matters in the Waterloo Region and Canada” (as international partner).
2018-21 ESRC: “Charting the impact of bilingualism on development in children with or without autism spectrum disorders” (with S. Fletcher-Watson).
2018-19 Carnegie Trust: “Language, place and identity: exploring children’s linguistic and cognitive development in heritage and community languages” (with; B. Cohen, L. Jamieson and K. Tisdall, UoE; G. Munro, Philomena De Lima, UHI).
2017-19 Leverhulme Trust: “Bilingualism, pragmatic enrichment and reasoning biases” (with C. Cummins).
2016-2021 NSF/PIRE: "Translating cognitive and brain science in the laboratory and field to language learning environments" (partner; PI J. Kroll, Penn State University).
2014-2019 EU Large-scale Integrated Research Project: "Advancing the European Multilingual Experience" (partner, with seven countries).
2013-2016 Norwegian Research Council: “Transitivity alternations in English and Norwegian: experimental investigations" (PI G. Ramchand, University of Tromsø).
2012-2015 EACEA/Lifelong Learning: "School and family together for the integration of immigrant children" (partner, with four countries).
2011-2015 UK Economic and Social Research Council: "First language attrition meets second language learning: interaction of linguistic and executive control factors in late bilinguals" (with F. Keller and T. Bak).
2010-12 EACEA Lifelong Learning project "Let's become a bilingual family" (partner, with four countries).
2011-12 Research Council of Norway: “Bilingual immigrant children in North Norway: the Norwegian welfare society and the language of Russian-Norwegian children” (with Y. Rodina, N. Kukarenko, AT Lotherington, T. Nesset and M. Westergaard, University of Tromsø).
2009-11 Leverhulme Trust: “Understanding language comprehension in bilingual children” (PI, with L. Serratrice).
2008-10 Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) grant on "Age effects on early child bilingualism" (bilateral UK-Netherlands project with A. Hulk, University of Amsterdam and L. Cornips, Meertens Institute).
2006-10 AHRC: “Verb movement in contemporary Faroese: A case study of syntactic variation and change” (with C. Heycock).
2007-08 ESRC knowledge transfer grant (as part of the Child and Youth Studies Network), to establish the community information and advice service Bilingualism Matters.
2005-07 British Academy Research Readership, to work on project “Gradience in split intransitivity: theoretical and experimental explorations of the lexicon-syntax interface”
2004-06 ESRC: “The syntax-pragmatics interface in bilingual first language acquisition” (with L. Serratrice).
2004 Arts and Humanities Research Board: Research Leave Grant: “Residual optionality in near-native second language speakers”.
2000-02 ESRC: “Syntactic native language attrition in L2 near-native speakers” (with C. Heycock and I. Tsimpli).
2002-03 ESRC: “Transfer at the syntax-pragmatics interface: the acquisition of subjects” (with Ludovica Serratrice).
1997 Humanities Research Board of the British Academy: research grant on "Split intransitivity in some Italo-Romance dialects".
1993-95 ESRC: "Losing the V2 constraint: parameter resetting in second language acquisition" (as principal investigator, with D. Robertson and E.G. Bard)
1992-93 ESRC: "Validating Magnitude Estimation of Linguistic Acceptability" (as principal investigator, with E.G. Bard and D. Robertson).

Conference details

I have given more than 130 invited plenary talks at conferences, more than 150 invited lectures, more than 100 refereed conference presentations, and more than 800 general audience talks . 

Invited speaker

I have given more than 130 invited plenary talks at conferences and more than 150 invited lectures.  


These are the largest international conferences I organised in Edinburgh:

2017       Workshop on “The selectivity of native language attrition”

2016       U21 International Workshop on “Language Science and Global Mobility”.

2008       11th World Congress of the International Association for the Study of Child Language (IASCL).

2003       13th Annual Meeting of the European Second Language Association (EUROSLA) (in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University).

2003        Language Learning Roundtable Conference “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Second Language Acquisition”.

1997        6th GALA international conference on "Language Acquisition: Knowledge Representation and Processing" (GALA)

Papers delivered

See above.

In the press

Since 2008 I have been featured in dozens of newspaper, radio and TV interviews in the UK, Europe, Asia, and the US.