Petar Milin

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

My primary research interests are concentrated in areas concerned with understanding the crucial role of learning in human language, its behaviour and use. Previously, my work focused on investigating word or lexical processing, but currently, it extends to the study of natural communication. Methodologically, my work combines experimentation and computational modelling with advanced statistical data analysis. I work with the Out Of Our Minds team towards an in-depth understanding of language knowledge and natural ways of learning a language.

I also have secondary research interests which all relate to understanding probabilistic phenomena in language. These include problems that arise in characterising text quantification, stylometry and authorship, vocabulary richness and similar issues.
My first research breakthrough was in proposing a formal measure of the synergy between information from different levels of language abstraction (such as representations of inflectional paradigms versus classes, as observed in Latin nominal declensions for example), and how this synergy is put to use in the cognitive system when words and phrases are processed. The proposed measure is grounded in information theory and formalizes the discrepancy between specific (input) exemplars and generalized abstractions (apparently cognitively plausible). The results of this study were initially published in 2009, in the Journal of Memory and Language and invited a comprehensive overview chapter of the information-theoretic approach to language processing for the edited volume Analogy in Grammar, published by Oxford University Press.

With these robust results as a foundation, I began to seek an explanatory, functional account of language processing in general, and of reading in particular. The resulting Naïve Discrimination Learning (NDL) model builds on foundational work in the psychology of animal and human Learning. Together with my collaborators, I have successfully modelled a wide range of lexical processing phenomena, and this work was published in 2011 in the Psychological Review.

Currently, I am fully occupied with the Out Of Our Minds research project, which aims to lead a step-change in understanding language and optimize language learning. Out Of Our Minds is supported by a Research Leadership Award from the Leverhulme Trust. You can read more about our work on our project website. An intro to our ideas is given in our research paper on the role of orthographic and semantic information in skilled reading, published in 2017 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

[see my major publications from 2009]


  • Research Ambassador for Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany [read more]

  • Consulting Editor for Methodology of the journal Cognitive Linguistics

  • Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Lingue e Linguaggio

  • Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Entropy

  • Co-Editor of the Monograph Series in Morphological Investigations (with J. P. Blevins and M. Ramscar) by Language Science Press

  • Ad Hoc Reviewing for a range of scientific journals; among others, Acta Linguistica; Behavioral Research Methods; Cognition; Cognitive LinguisticsCognitive Neuropsychology; Cognitive Science; International Journal of Bilingualism; International Journal of Psychological Research; Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory & Cognition; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; Journal of Slavic LinguisticLanguage, Cognition and NeuroscienceLanguage Learning; Psychonomic Bulletin & Review; Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology


Over the years I have taught Statistics and Research Methods at all levels and for quite a diverse student body, mainly in Social Sciences and Humanities. I have also developed and taught specialist modules on the Psychology of Language (Psycholinguistics) and Learning Theory.


  • BA (University of Novi Sad, Serbia), 1994

  • MA (University of Novi Sad, Serbia), 2001

  • PhD (University of Belgrade, Serbia), 2004

  • Training in Transactional Analysis, 1st level (60h) ITAA/ITAI certified, 1993

  • Training in Transactional Analysis, 2nd level (120h theory; 30h practice) ITAA/ITAI certified, 1995


I hold a BA and MA in Psychology from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. I started working as a Teaching Assistant in Statistics and Research Methodology at the Department of Psychology in Novi Sad in the late 90s. In 2001, I began a PhD degree at the University of Belgrade in the domain of experimental and computational psychology; my research focused on inflections in morphologically rich languages.

Following the completion of my PhD thesis in 2004, I took up an Assistant Professorship in Novi Sad, where I worked until 2016. In 2009, I was promoted to Associate Professor. Over the years I have convened modules on Psycholinguistics, Learning, Statistics, and Research Methodology. Between 2013 and 2016, I spent two years as Senior Researcher (Leitender Wissenschaftler) in the Quantitative Linguistics Group of Professor R. Harald Baayen, at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. In 2016 I took up a position as a Senior Lecturer in Data Science at the University of Sheffield. In January 2019 started my new post as a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Language and Language Learning at the University of Birmingham.

I’ve been very active in curriculum development. In 2006 I co-initiated the development of new UG curricula at the University of Novi Sad, aiming to meet European standards in HE (€180,000.00 TEMPUS grant from the EU). In 2011, I helped design and develop an Interdisciplinary Master’s program in Applied Statistics (€703,000.00 TEMPUS grant from the EU). I was also instrumental in founding Novi Sad's Laboratory for Experimental Psychology, which I headed up 2009-2015.

Fun fact: I spent a year working as Creative Director of TARCUS, a company that produced music and radio-commercials.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I welcome applications from PhD students in any of my areas of interest, especially the following:

the role of learning in language behaviour and language description (e.g., comprehension and production, foreign language learning, reading and others)

understanding/describing language as a complex dynamic system, its relationships with other cognitive systems (e.g., perception, memory, problem solving)

the dyads of language-communication and cognition-conceptualisation as pillars of human (social) adaptation

I currently co-supervise the following students

At the University of Birmingham:

Mr Maciej Borowski - Elucidating native speaker knowledge of case and aspect in Polish

Ms Shiyu He - Learning to optimize reading: Transferring eye movements across languages

Ms Marta Gasiorowska - Cognitive linguistics and the second language classroom

Ms Daisy Collins - Evasive English articles: Adult second language learners' perspective

Mr Paul Stott - The role of language in concept formation [to be confirmed]


Mr Filip Nenadić (the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada). This is a part of a collaboration with Dr Benjamin V. Tucker and The Alberta Phonetics Laboratory.