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Gillian Roberts

PhD scholar, Predoctoral Scholars


PhD thesis topic: Children’s social evaluations of English elements in Dutch: an experimental approach

Supervisors: Prof Dr Laura Rosseel (VUB), Prof Dr Eline Zenner (KU Leuven)


Funding body: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)




After finishing her bachelor’s degree in Law and French in her home city of Glasgow, UK, Gillian went on to qualify as a teacher of French and German at University College London and to teach in secondary schools in London before deciding to pursue further study in linguistics. She obtained her master’s degree in English and French Linguistics and Literary Studies from the VUB in 2019. After working as a teaching and research assistant at the KU Leuven’s Department of Linguistics in 2019-20, she was awarded a PhD Fellowship from Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and started a joint PhD in 2020 at the VUB and KU Leuven, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Laura Rosseel and Prof. Dr. Eline Zenner. 



Gillian studies how children learn to assign social meaning to language variation as part of the general language acquisition process. Through a case study on Belgian Dutch-speaking children’s social evaluations of English lexical items in Dutch, her PhD project investigates how children’s attitudes towards variation are structured, how flexible and context-dependent these attitudes are, and the role of automatic reactions in these social evaluations. By studying the development of sociolinguistic knowledge in a setting of weak language contact, this project encompasses her main research interests of developmental sociolinguistics and usage-based contact linguistics.





VUB Humanities Campus Etterbeek
Pleilaan 2
1050 Elsene