Prof. Dr. habil. Simone E. Pfenninger

Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Psycholinguistics

Department of English and American Studies

University of Salzburg

Erzabt-Klotz-Straße 1

5020 SALZBURG, Austria

Tel. +43 (0) 662 8044 4411

rm. 3.233

Research assistant: Barbara Reindl


About me

I am Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Psycholinguistics in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. Before I came to Salzburg, in August 2016, I studied English literature and linguistics, geography and history at the Free University of Berlin and the University of Zurich, from which I also received my PhD in historical linguistics (supervised by Prof. A. Fischer, University of Zurich, and Prof. O. Fischer, University of Amsterdam). In 2016 I obtained my habilitation (University of Zurich) in the area of English Linguistics.

I edit the Second Language Acquisition book series published by Multilingual Matters, founded and co-edited by David Singleton (Trinity College, Dublin / University of Pannonia, Veszprém), and act as statistical advisor to the EuroSLA Studies book series (eds. Gabriele Pallotti and Amanda Edmonds).

On 14 September 2018 I was elected Secretary of the International Association of Multilingualism (


Since 2008 my principal research areas have been multilingualism, psycholinguistics and the age factor in SLA, especially in regard to quantitative approaches and statistical methods and techniques for language application in education. My research sheds light on the effectiveness of early vs. late foreign language instruction, the difference between cognitive decline (as a function of aging) vs. the cumulative experience of learning, bilingual education in school contexts (with a focus on time and timing, as well as intra-learner variability), language learners with specific learning differences (e.g. dyslexics), as well the question of how good adults are at SLA when they begin learning a new language in later life (with a particular emphasis on the cognition-affect interface) – and how language learning benefits them.

Main areas of research (and supervision):

  • Second language acquisition (e.g. inter- and intra-individual variation in L2 development; socio-affective factors), with a special emphasis on age as an explanatory factor of differences in L2 acquisition, e.g. effects of an earlier vs. later starting age in school contexts; additional language learning in the third age

  • Psycholinguistics (e.g. dyslexia, aphasia)

  • Foreign language learning (e.g. CLIL, immersion, contextual factors)

  • Multilingualism (e.g. effects of L1 literacy and biliteracy)

  • Intra- and inter-individual variation (e.g. non-linear L2 development) 

  • Contrastive linguistics (German/English)

  • Grammaticalization from a cognitive perspective (e.g. psycholinguistic mechanisms driving language change)

  • Verbal constructions (e.g. existential constructions)


I have been involved in EFL in Switzerland and Austria for twelve years at different levels: secondary school, adult education, higher education, assessment of processes and outcomes in language education, and language policy.




Best Article Prize 2018 (European Second Language Association)


Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize 2018 for outstanding research (


Mercator Award 2015 (, which recognizes the outstanding scientific achievements of young researchers engaged in research projects of societal relevance and applying inter- or transdisciplinary approaches and methods.

Nomination for the Teaching Award 2017 at the University of Salzburg

Nomination for the “Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching 2013” (university teaching award) at the University of Zurich, which honors exceptional teaching of lecturers in the field of higher education, based on students’ evaluations and recommendations of an interdisciplinary faculty committee.

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