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"And is there any end to wisdom that we may hope to win it? Rather, the more we learn, shall we not thereby be able only to better compass out our ignorance?"

H.R. Haggard - She

My Background

1999-2003 - BA Hons French and Linguistics, University of Lancaster

2004-2005 - MSc Developmental Linguistics, University of Edinburgh

2005-2009 - PhD Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Edinburgh

2009-2011 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dept. of Psychology, University of Illinois

2011-2013 - Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow, Dept. of Psychology, University of Edinburgh

2013-2014 - Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow, Dept. of Psychology, University of Warwick

2013-2018 - Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Warwick

2018-date - Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Warwick

Research

I am interested in people's, especially learners', ability to understand and produce sentences and how these abilities are acquired. I am particularly interested in how psycholinguistic methods can be used to gather more sensitive measures of children's linguistic representations and language processing, and how this can inform our understanding of language acquisition in monolingual and bilingual children. I am also interested in how individual differences in children and adults affect language processing and performance. This research is conducted in the Language Development Lab as part of the Warwick Research with Kids Group.

More recently I have begun research examining sentence processing and language learning from syntactic priming in second language learners, tying in my personal interests and experiences as a language learner with my research interests.

Current Projects

2017 - 2021 PI: 'Syntactic priming as implicit learning: comparing second and first language speakers,' research project grant in collaboration with Ema Ushioda (Co-I) in Applied Linguistics, Warwick, funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

2018 - 2021 PI: 'How does language experience support language development? Short-term priming and long-term learning,' research grant in collaboration with Holly Branigan (Co-I) at University of Edinburgh, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

2020 - 2023 PI: 'Cross-linguistic influence and shared syntax in bilingual language development,' research project grant in collaboration with Ludo Serratrice (Co-PI) at University of Reading, funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

2020 - 2022 Co-I: 'The role of incorrect predictions in children’s comprehension of structural alternations,' small grant in collaboration with Chiara Gambi (PI) at Cardiff University, funded by The British Academy/Leverhulme Trust.

PhD students

Marion Coumel conducts research on syntactic priming in English learners of L2 French.

Noorin Rodenhurst researches bilingual sentence development in Gujurati-English bilingual children

I welcome contact from new students seeking to carry out postgraduate research in areas relating to language acquisition and language production, particularly syntactic priming; some sources of funding are described here.

Warwick's Psychology Department also currently offers two Masters programmes for research: a taught Masters in Psychological Research as well as a Masters by Research.

Publications and Work in progress

Coumel, M., Ushioda, E., & Messenger, K. In prep. Between- and within- group variation in first and second language syntactic priming.

Coumel, M., Ushioda, E., & Messenger, K. Submitted. Second language learning via syntactic priming: The effects of modality, attention and motivation.

Coumel, M., Ushioda, E., & Messenger, K. Submitted. Learning multiple L2 syntactic structures via chat-based alignment:​ What is the role of learners’ prior knowledge and conscious decisions?

Coumel, M., Hardy, S. M., & Messenger, K. Accepted. The art of conversation: How do we communicate successfully? Frontiers for Young Minds - Understanding Neuroscience.

Messenger, K. (2021). The persistence of priming: Exploring long-lasting syntactic priming effects in children and adults. Cognitive Science, 45: e13005.

Messenger, K., Hardy, S., & Coumel, M. (2020). An exemplar model should be able to explain all syntactic priming phenomena: A commentary on Ambridge (2020). First Language, 40, 616-620.

Messenger, K., & Fisher, C. (2018). Mistakes weren't made: Three-year-olds’ comprehension of novel-verb passives provides evidence for early abstract syntax. Cognition, 178, 118-132.

Hardy, S. M., Messenger, K., & Maylor, E. A. (2017). Aging and syntactic representations: Evidence of preserved syntactic priming and lexical boost. Psychology and Aging, 32, 588-596.

Branigan, H. P., & Messenger, K. (2016). Consistent and cumulative effects of syntactic experience in children’s sentence production: Evidence for error-based implicit learning. Cognition, 157, 250-256.

Messenger, K., Yuan, S., & Fisher, C. (2015). Learning verb syntax via listening: New evidence from 22-month-olds. Language Learning and Development, 11(4), 356-368.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P. & McLean, J.F. (2012). Is children's acquisition of the passive a staged process? Evidence from six- and nine-year-olds' production. Journal of Child Language, 39(5), 991-1016.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P., McLean, J.F. & Sorace, A. (2012). Is young children's passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from syntactic priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 66(4), 568–587.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H.P. & McLean, J.F. (2011). Evidence for (shared) abstract structure underlying children's short and full passives. Cognition, 121(2), 268-274.

Messenger, K. (2010). Dissertation notice: Syntactic priming and children's production and representation of the passive. Language Acquisition, 17 (1-2), 121-123.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H., McLean, J. & Sorace, A. (2009). Semantic Factors in Young Children's Comprehension and Production of Passives. In J. Chandlee, M. Franchini, S. Lord & G-M. Rheiner, (Eds.) BUCLD 33: Proceedings of the 33rd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Cascadilla Press: 355-366.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H., McLean, J. & Sorace, A. (2008). English-Speaking Children's Early Passives: Evidence from Syntactic Priming. In H. Chan, H. Jacob, & E. Kapia, (Eds.) BUCLD 32: Proceedings of the 32nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Cascadilla Press: 275-286.

Thatcher, K., Branigan, H., McLean, J. & Sorace, A. (2008). Children's Early Acquisition of the Passive: Evidence from Syntactic Priming. In T. Marinis, A. Papangeli & V. Stojanovik (Eds.) Proceedings of the Child Language Seminar 2007 – 30th Anniversary. University of Reading: 195-205.

Conference Presentations

Messenger, K., & Hardy, S. M. (2017). Exploring the lexical boost to syntactic priming in children and adults. Paper presented at AMLaP 2017, Lancaster, UK.

Messenger, K., & Hardy, S. M. (2016). Exploring the lexical boost to syntactic priming in children and adults. Poster presented at BUCLD 2016, Boston, USA.

Messenger, K.. (2014). How persistent is syntactic priming? Exploring long-term priming effects in children and adults. Poster presented at AMLaP 2014, Edinburgh, UK.

Messenger, K., & Fisher, C. (2011). What is primed? Exploring the locus of syntactic priming effects in children's language production. Poster presented at AMLaP 2011, Paris.

Messenger, K., & Fisher, C. (2011). Mistakes weren't made: 3-year-olds understand passives with novel verbs. Poster presented at SRCD Biennial Meeting, Montreal.

Messenger, K., Branigan, H., McLean, J. & Sorace, A. (2010). Abstract representation of passive structures in young children: Evidence from syntactic priming. Poster presented at the 23rd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, New York.