I am interested in bilingualism and second language acquisition, and in biliteracy and second language literacy, especially involving the Chinese language. I am investigating: (1) bilingualism and thought, and     (2) second language writing systems.

Bilingualism and thought
This area of research looks at the non-linguistic cognitive consequences of knowing more than one language. Cross-linguistic research inspired by the linguistic relativity theory shows that speakers of different languages perform differently in tasks involving the memorisation, description and categorisation of entities and events, when these entities and events are represented differently in their languages. As a consequence, bilinguals whose languages represent the same entity or event differently can perform differently from monolinguals on a variety of tasks.

Within this area, I investigated the effects of Italian grammatical gender on concepts of objects and animals and on awareness of the arbitrariness of grammatical gender in Italian monolinguals and Italian-German bilingual children and adults;  the effects of knowing English on counterfactual reasoning in Chinese speakers; and calendar processing in Chinese-English bilnguals.

Second Language Writing Systems
This area of research looks at the acquisition and use of a writing system that represents a second language. Knowledge of more than one writing system affects:
1- the use of the second as well as the first language: knowing two writing systems affects how we read and write both our first and second language, and may even affect our second language pronunciation
2- the knowledge of the linguistic units represented by both writing systems: knowing two writing systems affects our metalinguistic awareness (e.g., phonemic awareness, word awareness)
3- various non-linguistic aspects of cognition: the directionality of our writing systems affects whether we represent temporal sequences from left to right or vice versa, or whether we scan facial expression from the left of the right, and biliterates perform differently from monoliterates.

Within this area, I investigated topics such as the effects of interword spacing on reading in native and non-native readers of Chinese; word awareness in native and non-native users of Chinese; the effects of romanised Chinese orthography on pronunciation and phonological awareness in second language learners of Chinese. I am now investigating the effects of orthographic forms on phonology in second language users and learners of English, in collaboration with Jackie Masterson and with the support of a Leverhulme Fund grant.



  • Leverhulme Research Project Grant, 2013-17
    A three-year research project investigating L2 English phonology (with Professor Jackie Masterson, Institute of Education, London)
  • Words in the World, international partner, 2017-2022
  • British Academy Small Grant, 2008
    Project title: ‘Bilingualism and thought: Counterfactual reasoning in Chinese-English bilingual speakers'
  • British Academy Small Grant, 2005
    Project title: ‘Effects of pinyin on the pronunciation of Chinese as a second language’
  • ESRC Postgraduate Grant, 2000-2003
    Project title: 'Second language reading and second language awareness in English-speaking learners of Chinese as a foreign language'.