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Current and recent PhDs

Joanna John

Research areas

  • Bilingualism
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Discourse Analysis

My thesis

The activation of non-target phonological knowledge in bilingual language processing: A phoneme monitoring study of English-Punjabi bilinguals.

I am interested in the interactions of two languages at individual level.  My research investigates the patterns of activation which may occur when bilinguals produce speech and specifically whether dual activation extends beyond semantic representations to the lexeme, a layer of representation thought to contain the phonological (sound) elements of words.   I have adapted the phoneme monitoring methodology which, in one previous study (Colomé, 2001), produced evidence that activation extends to the lexeme level in balanced Catalan-Spanish bilinguals and apply it to British, mono-literate English-Punjabi bilinguals.  

I explore results in the light of current psychological models of bilingual speech processing with a particular focus on the potential role of sociolinguistic factors such as patterns of language usage.  Given that Punjabi is far less dominant than English, attracts low prestige among speakers and sits in a social context attaching low value to bilingualism, evidence for Punjabi activation will be of considerable interest, suggesting that even very securely dominant languages are vulnerable to interference from second language processing. Conversely, non-activation may result from population-level sociolinguistic differences.  

I am a part-time PhD student under the supervision of Dr Gabriella Rundblad and Dr Jill Hohenstein (also employed 0.8 at the University of Reading).  My data collection was supported by a fieldwork grant from the University of London Central Research Fund.

Academic background and relevant work experience

Academic background
My first degree was in West African Studies followed by seven years employment in development NGOs working mainly on media and communication projects. Following a growing interest in linguistics, I did a part-time MA in Applied Linguistics (Birkbeck College, Distinction).  My thesis, ‘When Rights Compete’, employed discourse analysis to examine linguistic strategies for managing conflicting sets of rights in sensitive issues. 

Work experience

After seven years in international development, I worked as a Research Associate with Professor Taeko Wydell at Brunel University on a psycholinguistic and literacy research project with secondary school children in Slough, also gaining the International Phonetics Association Certificate during this time. Following three years at the University of Reading’s Centre for Applied Undergraduate Research Skills, I then managed a university consortium project on ethnic diversity in teaching, producing a short film ( and working on a study of ethnic minority under-representation in teaching: 'No Greater Calling' explored discourse and disproportionately high rejection levels of ethnic minority applications for teacher training.

I have delivered teacher training sessions on linguistic diversity and have been a consultant on children’s reference books on language.   I am currently based in the University of Reading Graduate School. 


John, J. & Creighton, J. (2012). 'In practice it doesn't always work out like that.' Undergraduate experiences in a research community of practice. Journal of Further and Higher Education. DOI:10.1080/0309877X.2012.684037

 John, J. & Creighton, J. (2011). Researcher development: the impact of undergraduate research opportunity programmes on students in the UK. Studies in Higher Education vol. 36, issue 7, pp. 781-797. DOI: 10.1080/03075071003777708

Conference Presentations

John, J. & McCrum, E. (2012). ‘No Greater Calling.’The discourse of persuasion in unsuccessful ethnic minority applications to initial teacher training. Paper presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association. Manchester, September 2012.

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