Skip to main content

The Michel Blanc Lecture in Applied Linguistics 2021 - Professor Paul Meara

Venue: Online

Book your place

There is a long tradition in psycholinguistics of researchers studying their own behaviour, and much of this work has considerable relevance for L2 vocabulary acquisition. Ebbinghaus (1885) studied his own ability to memorise and retain long lists of nonsense words, and in doing so kicked off a long tradition of research into the psycholinguistics of memory and attrition. Even earlier studies by Galton (1879) of his own word associations underpins much of the current work in L2 semantic development. Some technically brilliant studies by Cattell (1898) established that words in an L2 were processed more slowly by learners than they are by fluent speakers. These studies defined the field for more than fifty years.

This paper is a contribution to that single-subject research tradition. Professor Paul Meara used the COVID lock-down period to fulfil a promise to his grandfather that he would one day learn Irish. The talk provides an account of his struggles with DuoLingo - the world’s best way to learn a language. It is particularly interested in the lexical environment that this course provides, and explores some ideas about what it means to learn a vocabulary network.

Paul Meara was a founder member of the Department of Applied Linguistics at Birkbeck, working in the Department from 1972 -1990. During this time he developed an interest in L2 vocabulary acquisition – a rather unfashionable research topic at the time, but one which has turned out to be surprisingly rich. In 1990, he moved to Swansea University, where he set up an innovative distance learning PhD program. He retired from that post in 2015, and now holds an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. He is still trying to work out what he is going to do when he grows up.

Attendees will receive an email with a Teams link two hours before the beginning of the event on 16 June at 18:00.

Contact name: