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L2 Acquisition

Second Language Acquisition

Second language acquisition (SLA) is a major branch of Applied Linguistics and draws on disciplines within the field of linguistics, such as sociolinguistics, phonology, and syntax, as well as disciplines outside of linguistics, such as cognitive science, education, sociology, and psychology. Scholars with an interest in SLA investigate internal (i.e., mental) and external factors that play a role in the acquisition of second languages, including but not limited to age and exposure, linguistic backgrounds, aptitude, motivation, instructional settings and practices, and societal contexts.

Learn about our related concentration in Second Language Phonology.

Learn more about the Department of Linguistics BAMA and PhD programs and Computational Linguistics Certificate and the TESOL Certificate for undergraduate and graduate students.


Faculty in the Department of Linguistics with an interest in SLA supervise student research on crosslinguistic influence, the development of second language (L2) proficiency in multiple domains (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, listening, writing, pragmatics), and the effects of language instruction on L2 learning, acquisition, and use.

MaryAnn Christison

Faculty ProfileCurriculum Vitae

I work primarily in the areas of instructed second language acquisition and second language teacher education. My research draws on a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches from various disciplines to understand how language develops (second, third, etc.) for diverse learners in varied contexts and how teachers can best facilitate that development. My current research interests focus on the following: curriculum design, particularly content and language-integrated learning; leadership in language education; multilingualism, online language teacher education (OLTE); and teacher and learner cognition and identity development. I also maintain a long-standing interest in reviewing and interpreting the research related to the biological basis for language development in the brain. I have targeted my research and publishing priorities to reflect these interests.

Adrian Palmer

Faculty Profile

My research interests include software design for language test design and development, software design for applied linguistics research, instructed L2 acquisition, classroom-based assessment, and multilingualism.

Johanna Watzinger-Tharp

Faculty ProfileCurriculum Vitae

My research focuses on two related areas: Dual language immersion and L2 teacher education. Currently, I am investigating the effects of dual language immersion on the academic achievement of Utah public school students, including English Learners. This collaborative project is funded by a researcher-practitioner partnership grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. I am also interested in individual and societal multilingualism, the role of language study in education and society, articulation of pedagogy and research across educational levels, and linking research to advocacy.

Scott Jarvis

Faculty ProfileCurriculum Vitae

My research deals mainly with second language acquisition, and more specifically with crosslinguistic influence and lexical diversity. In the domain of crosslinguistic influence, I investigate the effects of crosslinguistic similarity on the acquisition of words and grammatical constructions, and I also investigate the ways in which conceptual meanings and patterns of cognition acquired as a speaker of one language carry over into the use of another language. In the domain of lexical diversity, I investigate how people perceive lexical diversity, whether human judgments of lexical diversity can be modeled accurately with a combination of objective measures of spoken and written texts, and whether these models and measures of lexical diversity are useful indicators of language ability, language learning, and language attrition. Some of my recent work also deals with the challenges that users of English as an L2 face while navigating the U.S. legal system.

Last Updated: 6/1/22