Case Study: Professor Antonella Sorace

Professor of Developmental Linguistics
The University of Edinburgh

Antonella is Professor of Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. She currently also holds a part-time visiting professorship (Professor II) at the University of Tromsø. Her research focuses on a number of interrelated questions that bring together linguistics, experimental psychology and cognitive science, and her research achievements span different sub-fields of scientific enquiry. She is a world leading authority in the field of bilingual language development, where she 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 committed to disseminating the findings of research on bilingualism outside academia. She is the founder of the information and consultancy service Bilingualism Matters and is an Edinburgh Beltane Public Engagement Fellow.
Antonella noticed that there seemed to be a gap in the research on the benefits of bilingualism and public perception and responded to this by establishing her own information service.

The intention was to ensure that the community understood the benefits of bilingualism.

As a result of this she and her team have visited community centres, schools, health professional, teachers and many other groups to present research findings in an accessible way and discuss their implications. From this start the project grew and now boasts collaborations with Edinburgh Council, the Bòrd na Gàilidh, as well as the European Commission and other international organisations.

I would like to make sure that people have the correct information about bilingualism so that they can use it in their own personal or professional situation

As a result, Antonella discovered that being involved in Bilingualism Matters has complemented and provided new directions to her research her research. Many families have also offered to be involved in her research directly.

In the early stages of her project Antonella received support from ESRC and the University of Edinburgh to assist in the setting up and establishment of the service. Now, aside from some support she receives from the University of Edinburgh to cover publishing costs, Bilingualism Matters relies on the support from volunteers and occasional consultancy work. Antonella received an Edinburgh Beltane Public Engagement Fellowship in 2010 which has allowed her to set time aside specifically towards the project, however in a normal week Antonella dedicates at least 20% of her time to Bilingualism Matters.