Research staff

María del Pilar García Mayo

I am a Full Professor of English Language and Linguistics (promoted in 2003) in the Department of  English and German Philology, Translation and Interpretation at the University of the Basque Country, of which I was the Head (2016-2024). After obtaining my undergraduate degree in Germanic Philology at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, I was awarded a Fulbright-Hays scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and Linguistics at the University of Iowa (USA), which I obtained in 1989.  Thanks to the financial support of the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the same university, I obtained a Ph.D. in Theoretical Linguistics (with a focus on morphosyntax) in June 1993 (thesis: On certain null operator constructions in English and Spanish). While at the University of Iowa, I was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

Throughout the years, I have maintained two active lines of research. The first one, derived from my dissertation, is grounded in generative linguistic theory and explores second (L2) and third (L3) language acquisition processes. My theoretical focus is the acquisition of English grammatical structures by bilingual Basque-Spanish speakers (gender agreement, null objects, relative clauses, sentential negation, tense and agreement, telicity, topicalization, wh-questions). My second research line is grounded in cognitive-interactionist theory, which assumes that the process of acquiring an L2 or an L3 is a complex one, involving learner-internal cognitive abilities as well as the social and educational contexts in which learning occurs. In this line of research I have investigated the relationships between the type of conversational interaction in which L2/L3 learners engage in a low input, foreign language setting (English as a foreign language – EFL), and the language development they experience as a result. I have been invited to universities in Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Norway,  Portugal, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA. I have published widely in international journals (Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of Bilingualism, International Journal of Educational Research, International Review of Applied Linguistics, Language Learning, Language Teaching for Young Learners, Language Teaching Research, Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, Second Language Research, System, among others. I  have also been an invited editor of special issues (Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, International Journal of Educational Research, Language Teaching for Young Learners, Second Language Learning and Teaching, System), and edited books for major publishers (De Gruyter, John Benjamins, Multilingual Matters). I have been awarded five six-year research periods (sexenios de investigación) by the National Commission for Assessment of Research Activity and have been included in the 2021 and 2022 Stanford list of the world’s top 2% most-cited researchers.

I have supervised sixteen Ph.D. dissertations (all of them with the highest distinction and five awarded ‘Extraordinary Ph.D. Prize’)  – eleven more are in progress- and a large number of MA and undergraduate theses. I have also served in numerous national and international Ph.D., MA  and promotion committees both in Spain and overseas (Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA). I have been the Principal Investigator (PI) of several projects awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, the current one on balancing interaction and L2 grammar learning by children in an EFL context (2021-2025). I was the co-editor of the European Journal of Applied Linguistics (2014-2018). Since September 2018, I have been the co-editor of the journal Language Teaching Research (Sage- Q1).

My teaching includes undergraduate courses on English syntax and an MA course on the acquisition of morphosyntax in the MA program in Language Acquisition in Multilingual Settings (LAMS) at the UPV/EHU, where I have been awarded the prize for excellence in teaching. I am also a tutor at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED).

Since 2007 I have been the director of the research group Language and Speech (, noted  by the Basque Government  for excellence in research in the field (IT311-10, 2010-2015; IT904-16, 2016-2021; IT1426-22; 2022-2025). I belong to the Editorial Board of  the volumes EUROSLA Yearbook and Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics and those of the journals Language Teaching for Young Learners and Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism (all of them published by John Benjamins), Instructed Second Language Acquisition (Equinox),  European Journal of Applied Linguistics (EuJAL) – De Gruyter- and VIAL (Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics). I am also a reviewer for all the major journals in the SLA field.

Since 2009 I have been  the director of the MA program Language Acquisition in Multilingual Settings ( with access to doctoral studies (Ph.D.). The Ph.D. program was awarded Distinction of Excellence  by the Spanish Ministry of Education. I was also the International Relations representative of the Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics (AESLA) and a member of the AILA (International Association of Applied Linguistics) Executive Board – International Committee (EBIC) (2011-2017). I am also an assessor for ANEP (Spanish Evaluation and Foresight Agency) and ANECA (Spanish National Agency of Quality Evaluation and Accreditation). From June 2016 to July 2019  I was the coordinator of  the Modern Languages section and the Language and Linguistics section in the Spanish State Research Agency and I have been a member of its steering committee since June 2021.  I am also an Honorary Consultant for the Shanghai Center for Research in English Language Education (SCRELE).

Research Interests

The acquisition of L2/L3 English morphosyntax (generative perspective)
Focus on form
Interaction in the foreign language classroom (EFL/CLIL)
Interaction and grammar learning
Task-based language teaching



María del Pilar García Mayo. (2021) Working Collaboratively in Second/Foreign Language Learning. Pub.:De Gruyter. ISBN: 978-1-5015-1731-0.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo, Maria Juncal Gutierrez Mangado. (2020) English language learning in primary school: Variables at play. Pub.:. ISBN: 2083-5205.  Abstract || PDF
Mohammad Ahmadian, María del Pilar García Mayo. (2018) Recent Perspectives onTask-based Language Teaching and Learning. Pub.:Walter de Gruyter. ISBN: 978-1-5015-0339-9.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo. (2017) Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School: Research Insights. Pub.:Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 978-1-78309-809-5.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo. (2015) Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (special issue)L3 acquisition: A focus on Cognitive Approaches. Pub.:Cambridge University Press. ISBN: ISSN 1366-7289.  Abstract
María del Pilar García Mayo. (2015) Learning language and content through tasks: Exploring the interfaces. Pub.:Elsevier. ISBN: ISSN: 0346-251X.  Abstract
María del Pilar García Mayo, M.Junkal Gutierrez-Mangado, María Martínez Adrián. (2013) Contemporary Approaches to Second Language Acquisition(Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics award 2014). Pub.:John Benjamins. ISBN: 978 90 272 0525 4.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo, Roger Hawkins. (2009) Second Language Acquisition of Articles. Empirical Findings and Theoretical Implications. Pub.:John Benjamins. ISBN: 978902725310.  Abstract || PDF
Eva Alcón Soler, María del Pilar García Mayo. (2009) International Review of Applied Linguistics (IRAL). Pub.:Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN: 0019-042X.  Abstract
María del Pilar García Mayo. (2007) Investigating Tasks in Formal Language Learning. Pub.:Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 1853599271.  Abstract || PDF
Susan Foster-Cohen, María del Pilar García Mayo, Jasone Cenoz. (2005) EUROSLA Yearbook 5. Pub.:John Benjamins. ISBN: 9027254559.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo, Mª Luisa García Lecumberri. (2003) Age and the Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language. Pub.:Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 1-85359-639-6.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo, Eva Alcón Soler. (2002) The role of interaction in instructed language learning. Guest-edited special issue.. Pub.:Elsevier. ISBN: ISSN 0883-0355.  Abstract
María del Pilar García Mayo. (2000) English for Specific Purposes. Discourse Analysis and Course Design. Pub.:Universidad del País Vasco. ISBN: 84-8373-251-3.  Abstract || PDF
María del Pilar García Mayo. (1994) On Certain Null Operator Constructions in English and Spanish. Pub.:University of the Basque Country. ISBN: 84-7585-579-1.  Abstract

Journal Papers

Book Chapters

Conference Papers