Co-Principal Investigator

John Williams specialises in the cognitive mechanisms of second language learning and second language lexical and syntactic processing. His work draws on theoretical concepts and experimental methodologies from cognitive psychology and applies these to second language processing and learning using laboratory-based methods. His recent research focuses on implicit learning of form-meaning connections (recently funded by the ESRC,, and incidental learning of word order regularities.

He has published numerous articles on these topics in journals such as Language Learning, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, and Applied Psycholinguistics. He has also recently written overview chapters on implicit learning (New Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Emerald) and working memory in second language acquisition (Handbook of Second Language Acquisition, Routledge) and is area editor of the Cognitive Approaches to Second Language Acquisition section of the Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (Wiley Blackwell,




Research Interest

Key Publications

ResearchGate Profile

Bovolenta, G. and Williams, JN., 2023. Implicit Learning in Production: Productive Generalization of New Form-Meaning Connections in the Absence of Awareness LANGUAGE LEARNING, v. 73. Doi:

Williams, JN., 2020. The Neuroscience of Implicit Learning LANGUAGE LEARNING, v. 70. Doi:

Graham, CR. and Williams, JN., 2018. Implicit learning of Latin stress regularities Studies in Second Language Acquisition, v. 40. Doi: 10.1017/S0272263116000371

Sheehan, M., Paciorek, A. and Williams, JN., 2018. Case/agreement matching: Evidence for a cognitive bias GLOSSA-A JOURNAL OF GENERAL LINGUISTICS, v. 3. Doi:

Tao, Y. and Williams, JN., 2018. Generalization of Syntactic Knowledge in Semiartificial Language Learning LANGUAGE LEARNING, v. 68. Doi:

Leung, JHC. and Williams, JN., 2011. Constraints on implicit learning of grammatical form-meaning connections Language Learning. Doi:

Williams, JN. and Kuribara, C., 2008. Comparing a nativist and emergentist approach to the initial stage of SLA: An investigation of Japanese scrambling LINGUA, v. 118. Doi:]

Elston-Guettler, KE. and Williams, JN., 2008. First language polysemy affects second language meaning interpretation: evidence for activation of first language concepts during second language reading SECOND LANG RES, v. 24. Doi: