Anna Ibrahim

Anna 160Research degree

PhD in Psycholinguistics

Thesis title or research topic

Bilingual language processing

Paragraph or two about the scope of your research

Bilingualism is often approached from the perspective of linguistics rather than neurobiology. However, language is a product of activity of the human brain and it is vital to seek compatibility between linguistic theories and neurobiological principles.

The purpose of the present study is to re-address the Revised Hierarchichal Model of bilingualism (Kroll and Stewart, 1994), which claims that the languages are stored separately in the bilingual memory, and predicts asymmetrical access to them.

There are frequent criticisms of pure linguistic theories that they pay little attention to how the brain functions. In my project, I plan to examine bilingualism from a neurobiological perspective and reassess plausibility of such modular view of two languages in a bilingual mind.


Professor Rosemary Varley
Dr Ayumi Matsuo

Start date

October 2010

Brief personal biography

Originally from Russia, I have worked in various countries as a professional English/Russian interpreter and translator.

Now, I live in the UK and apart from being a mother, I manage to run a business and do my PhD. It is a pretty hard, and yet, a very satisfying lifestyle.

Academic background

In 1996 I gained my first degree in English Language and Literature from the Udmurt State University, Izhevsk, followed by an equivalent MA in psycholinguistics in 1997. My dissertation looked at cognitive processes facilitating or impeding second language acquisition in adults.

Previous employment

In 2000 I started my own company, Russia House, which provides interpretation and translation services to such flagship companies, as Toyota car manufacturing, Sakhalin Oil and Gas Investment Company, etc.

Juggling a PhD and running a business is a pretty challenging task and requires endless amounts of time and energy.

Your research interests

I am interested in topics covering bilingualism and language processing. In particular, I’m researching hypotheses on how two languages are organised in a bilingual mind.

The main question of the thesis: Are there two languages or one?

Does a human mind store two languages as two systems of memory one for each language, or one macro system in which lexical items of both languages are stored together, competing directly with each other for production?

I am also interested in first and second language acquisition studies, which naturally relate to the topic of my research.

Conferences (recent / relevant to your research)

I have presented a paper “Frequency effects in the with-language translation tasks” at a postgraduate conference at the Human Communications Sciences department June 2011, and a postgraduate colloquium within the School of English May 2011. The paper reports on the experiment 1 of my PhD thesis.


I teach the Doing Linguistics module at undergraduate level.

Other professional activities 

In September 2011 I started on a conference organising post with Professor Andrew Linn. The Leverhulme Trust funded project is titled “English in Europe: Threat or Opportunity?”

It represents a research network between five major European Universities: Sheffield; University of Copenhagen (Denmark); University of Zaragoza (Spain); Charles University, Prague (Czech Republic) and CITI college Thessaloniki (Greece).

Personal website / blog

Questions / topics:

1. Why did you choose to do your research at Sheffield?

My MA topic was so fascinating, that after a break I gravitated back into academia at the University of Sheffield, where in October 2010 I started a PhD in psycholinguistics, pursuing research into bilingualism seeking biological plausibility of linguistic views on bilingual language processing.

My research area is of an interdisciplinary nature and I am fortunate that while one of my supervisors, Dr Ayumi Matsuo, is a linguist, here at the School of English, the other, Professor Rosemary Varley, is a neuroscientist, from the department of Human Communication Sciences. This gives me an invaluable opportunity to assess both: linguistic and neurobiological claims on bilingual memory representations.

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