Dr Robyn Orfitelli

School of English

Lecturer in Linguistics

English Robyn Orfitelli
Profile picture of English Robyn Orfitelli
+44 114 222 0224

Full contact details

Dr Robyn Orfitelli
School of English
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I joined the School of English as a lecturer in the fall of 2014. Prior to that, I did my undergraduate work at Harvard University (BA in Linguistics and Biochemistry, 2006), and my graduate work at UCLA (PhD in Linguistics, 2012), with Professor Nina Hyams as my advisor.

Following my PhD, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa from 2013-2014.

Research interests

My research is focused on the intersection between first language acquisition and generative syntactic theory. I use a variety of corpus and behavioral measures to experimentally analyze children’s acquisition of complex syntactic phenomena.

Recently, I have been interested in understanding the acquisition of a range of A-movement phenomena related to voice, including subject-to-subject raising, passives, and middles. I am working to link patterns in acquisition to systematic cross-linguistic differences in the representation of these structures.

Other current or recent topics of interest include the Null-Subject stage in first and second language acquisition, word-level prosody in Samoan, and the syntax-prosody interface in language development.


Journal articles


  • Hyams N & Orfitelli R (2017) The Acquisition of Syntax In Fernández EM & Smith Cairns H (Ed.), The Handbook of Psycholinguistics John Wiley & Sons RIS download Bibtex download
  • Orfitelli R & Polinsky M (2017) When performance masquerades as comprehension: Grammaticality judgments in experiments with non-native speakers In Kopotev M, Mustajoki A & Lyashevskaya O (Ed.), Quantitative Approaches to the Russian Language Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Orfitelli R & Grüter T (2013) Do null subjects really transfer?, Proceedings of the 12th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2013) Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Orfitelli R (2012) 'Experiencing' a Slight Delay: Intervening Arguments and the Acquisition of Subject-to-Subject Raising. PROCEEDINGS OF THE 36TH ANNUAL BOSTON UNIVERSITY CONFERENCE ON LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, VOLS 1 AND 2 (pp 374-386) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Orfitelli R & Hyams N (2008) An experimental study of children's comprehension of null subjects: Implications for grammatical/performance accounts. PROCEEDINGS OF THE 32ND ANNUAL BOSTON UNIVERSITY CONFERENCE ON LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, VOLS 1 AND 2 (pp 335-346) RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • Orfitelli R (2012) Argument intervention in the acquisition of A-movement. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

I welcome PhD students in any of the areas of my research.

Teaching activities

I convene the following undergraduate modules:

  • ELL 113 - Structure of English
  • ELL 221 - Syntax
  • ELL 226 - First Language Acquisition