Background and activities

I am Full Professor and Chair of Applied Linguistics in the Modern Languages and Linguistics department at the University of Southampton, UK.  I am also adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Language and Literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 

At the University of Southampton, I am the Director of the Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR). At NTNU, I am affiliated with the AcqVA research group directed by Professor Marit Westergaard and Professor Terje Lohndal.


I was born in Varna, Bulgaria and studied at the English-medium high school there. I completed my undergraduate education in English Philology at the Sofia University "Kliment Ohridski," specializing in linguistics and educational psychology. I taught English for academic purposes at the same university before I embarked on my postgraduate studies. My PhD degree was awarded by McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where I studied under the supervision of Professor Lydia White. My dissertation investigated the second language acquisition of aspect by Bulgarian native speakers learning English. I taught and conducted research at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA before I came to the University of Southampton in 2013. I joined NTNU in 2019.

I recently became a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA). 


My research is grounded in generative linguistic theory and explores the second language (L2) acquisition process. My theoretical focus is the acquisition of grammatical structure and its interaction with meaning. I use online and offline psycholinguistic methodologies to investigate the following theoretical issues: 

  • What is the linguistic nature of the bilingual and multilingual grammar?
  • Are there some properties of language (e.g. words, sounds, sentence structure) that are easier to acquire than others (e.g. functional morphemes, grammatical meanings)? Are there are some properties, such as pragmatic universals, that will come for free in the grammar of the learner?

  • Can lexical, phrasal and sentence meaning be acquired in the L2? How does the interface between form and meaning affect the L2 acquisition of meaning?

  • What is the effect of the native language in the acquisition of a second language? What are the effects of the native and the second language in the acquisition of a third language?

  • How does linguistic and processing complexity affect knowledge of meaning in the L2? How do children acquiring their native language and adult L2 learners compare in this respect?

Scientific, academic and artistic work

A selection of recent journal publications, artistic productions, books, including book and report excerpts. See all publications in the database

Journal publications


  • Slabakova, Roumyana; Leal, Tania; Dudley, Amber; Stack, Micah. (2020) Generative Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge University Press. 2020. ISBN 9781108762380. Second language acquisition (1).
  • Slabakova, Roumyana; Corbet, James; Domínguez, Laura; Dudley, Amber; Wallington, Amy. (2019) Explorations in Second Language Acquisition and Processing. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2019. ISBN 978-1-5275-2776-8.

Part of book/report

  • Bayram, Fatih; Di Pisa, Grazia; Rothman, Jason; Slabakova, Roumyana. (2021) Current Trends and Emerging Methodologies in Charting Heritage Language Bilingual Grammars. The Cambridge Handbook of Heritage Languages and Linguistics.