Gareth Carrol

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

My research looks at how language users understand idioms and other types of figurative phrase, such as conventional metaphors. My work has focused on the factors that influence processing and comprehension in native and non-native speakers, including aspects such as familiarity, transparency and context. I have also looked at cross-language effects in how idioms are recognised and understood in a series of studies on Chinese and Swedish learners of English. I am interested in extending this work to consider the effects of different cognitive variables such as working memory on how language users make sense of both known and unknown figurative phrases, as a way of better understanding the changes that might be seen in healthy aging and pathological conditions such as dementia or aphasia.

I am also interested in formulaic language more generally, and have conducted several studies to explore the processing advantage for frequent phrases such as binomials (black and white, salt and pepper), where word order is highly conventionalised.

My work uses experimental techniques such as eye-tracking, which is an invaluable tool in the study of reading comprehension. I also use other methodologies such as reaction times and offline techniques (ratings and speaker judgements) to build a detailed picture of how language users process language at the multiword level.


I joined the department of English Language and Linguistics in January 2016. Prior to this I completed my MA and PhD at the University of Nottingham, where I became interested in psycholinguistics in general and idioms in particular. I was also involved in a number of research projects using eye-tracking to explore literary reading and other aspects of language processing.

I hold undergraduate degrees in Language and Linguistics (University of York) and Human Communication: Speech and Language Therapy (De Montfort University), which have given me a very broad knowledge of language, and in particular expertise and interest in clinical linguistics and language disorders.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I am keen to hear from students interested in conducting research on idioms and formulaic language, as well as other aspects of phraseology, and on figurative language more generally. This includes processing and representation in first and second languages, the development of figurative competence in second language speakers, and the ways in which linguistic and cultural knowledge contribute to how people make sense of metaphorical and extended uses of words and phrases.

I am also interested in hearing from students wanting to explore research in language impairments and disordered populations. Please contact me to discuss any ideas you may have. As my research tends to be experimental, I would encourage any potential applicants to think about the ways in which psycholinguistic techniques might form a key part of your project.