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Ewa Dabrowska

Professor of Linguistics

Department: Humanities

ADSS Ewa Dabrowska Facultystaff 255 I am a native of Gdańsk and was educated in Poland, the US, and the UK. I have also spent some time in Germany (working at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig) and in Japan. I joined the Department of Humanities at Northumbria in 2009, having previously taught at the universities of Sheffield, Sussex, Glasgow, and Gdańsk. My research interests include cognitive linguistics, language acquisition, the mental status of linguistic knowledge, and individual differences in the latter I am president of the UK Cognitive Linguistics Association. In the past, I have served as a editor-in-chief of Cognitive Linguistics and member of the Governing Board of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association.

0191 227 3497


MA (Gdańsk), MPhil (Glasgow), PhD (Gdańsk)

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research covers three main areas: cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition.  I am interested in what native speakers know about the grammar of their language, how they come to know it, and how this knowledge differs across individuals. While most of my work to date has focussed on morphology and syntax – in particular, case, interrogative constructions, and passives – I am also interested in lexical semantics.

At the moment, I am involved in several projects investigating individual differences in native language attainment. This is a rather controversial area which has been largely neglected by linguists, in spite of its immense social implications. In my earlier work I focussed primarily on documenting the extent of individual differences in grammatical knowledge, since so many linguists deny their existence; more recently, I have been trying to determine to what extent they are attributable to cognitive and motivational factors (such as IQ, working memory capacity, and need for cognition) and to linguistic experience, and in particular, the amount of exposure to written texts.

Key Publications


  • Dąbrowska, Ewa and Dagmar Divjak (2015). Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin. 
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2013) Ten Lectures on Grammar in the Mind. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (Eminent Linguist Lecture Series), Beijing. 2nd edition to be published in 2017 by Brill.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2004) Language, Mind and Brain: Some Psychological and Neurological Constraints on Theories of Grammar. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh and Georgetown University Press, Georgetown 
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (1997) Cognitive Semantics and the Polish Dative. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin and New York [240 pages, ISBN 3110152185; reviewed in Word, Cognitive Linguistics, and the Slavic and East European Journal].

Articles in refereed journals

  • Divjak, Dagmar, Ewa Dąbrowska, and Antti Arppe (2016) “Machine meets man”. Cognitive Linguistics 27: 1-33.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2015) “What exactly is Universal Grammar, and has anyone seen it?” Frontiers in Psychology 6: 852. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00852. 
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2014) “Recycling utterances: A speaker’s guide to sentence processing”. Cognitive Linguistics 25: 617-653.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2013) Functional constraints, usage, and mental grammars: A study of speakers’ intuitions about questions with long-distance dependencies. Cognitive Linguistics 24(4): 633 – 665.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2012) “Different speakers, different grammars: Individual differences in native language attainment”. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 2: 219-253 (keynote article with peer commentary).
  • Street, James and Ewa Dąbrowska (2010) “More individual differences in Language Attainment: How much do adult native speakers of English know about passives and quantifiers?”. Lingua 120, 2080-2094.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2008) “Questions with long-distance dependencies: A usage-based perspective”. Cognitive Linguistics 19:3, 391-425.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2008) “The later development of an early-emerging system: The curious case of the Polish genitive”. Linguistics 46:3, 629–650.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2008) “The effects of frequency and neighbourhood density on adult native speakers’ productivity with Polish case inflections: An empirical test of usage-based approaches to morphology”. Journal of Memory and Language 58, 931-951.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa and Marcin Szczerbiński (2006) “Polish children’s productivity with case marking: the role of regularity, type frequency, and phonological diversity”. Journal of Child Language 33, 559-597.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa and Elena Lieven (2005) “Towards a lexically specific grammar of children’s question constructions”. Cognitive Linguistics 16, 437-474.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2004) “Rules or schemas? Evidence from Polish.” Language and Cognitive Processes 19, 225-271.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2001) “Learning a morphological system without a default: The Polish genitive.” Journal of Child Language 28, 545-574.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (2000) “From formula to schema: The acquisition of English questions.” Cognitive Linguistics 11, 83-102.
  • Dąbrowska, Ewa (1997) “The LAD goes to school: A cautionary tale for nativists.” Linguistics 35, 735-766.


To view my Northumbria Research Link page click here

Current/Recent Projects

  • Grammar, Vocabulary and Collocations. This projects investigates individual differences in ultimate attainment in three areas of linguistic knowledge (grammar, vocabulary, and collocations) in L1 and L2 speakers, and the extent to which these can be explained by differences in language experience, language aptitude, and IQ. 
  • How Writing Changes Language. This projects examines the effects of writing on language from a developmental (i.e., how learning to write effects individual speakers’ linguistic knowledge and processing) as well as a historical perspective (how languages change as a result of having literate speakers).  


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