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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Language Research Acquisition Research Center




Language Acquisition Projects


Tom Roeper
Luiz Amaral

"Expanding the Multiple Grammars Theory to Bilingual Speakers"

Multiple Grammars (MG) is a theory of representation that was originally proposed by Roeper (1999) to explain how idiosyncratic, incompatible rules could exist in adult monolingual grammars, and how they played a role in child first language acquisition. The extension of a model that was also called Universal Bilingualism to describe the interlanguage representation in adult second language learners, and bilinguals in general, seems to be an obvious next step. We are currently working on expanding the model and testing its predictions for different constructions in second and heritage language acquisition.


Tracy Conner

"Testing For Obligatory Possessive Marking with N' Ellipsis in African American English"

This project investigates how children acquiring African American English (AAE) indicate possession in the context of N’ ellipsis, that is, when the following noun has been omitted. While possessive ‘s marking is typically optional in AAE (Joe’s hat and Joe hat are both grammatical possessive forms), this study will test whether children must mark possession with ‘s when the noun is not present (That’s Joe(‘s).) By looking at whether children must obligatorily mark possession in this context, we can study how this structure works in AAE and how it develops in children. The age range is 3-6 years. Of interest are both general tendencies across children and individual variation. To make a comparison between adults and children, another part of this study also investigates how AAE-speaking adolescents and adults mark possession in the proposed environment.


Maria Turrero

"The Acquisition of Wh-questions by Second Language Romance Speakers"

The aim of the study is to observe the patterns of response that adult L2 speakers of Romance languages show when faced with a double wh- question, and to look into whether they respond to the medial wh- (allowed by the child but not by the adult L1 speakers) and whether they allow for a long-distance reading of the fronted wh- word (disallowed by both child and adult L1 speakers). The implications of the patterns of response can shed light on the discussion between transfer and UG accounts of SLA.



Applied and Educational Projects


Luiz Amaral
Patricia Gubitosi

The New England Corpus of Heritage and Second Language Speakers

The NECHSLS is an online corpus of oral and written production of heritage and L2 speakers of Spanish and Portuguese in New England, with a special focus on the communities from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Spanish and Portuguese were chosen as the initial languages for this project because of their significance to our region. However, the project should be extended to other languages once the initial phase of building the computational infrastructure is over. Our final goal is to establish an online repository for L2 and heritage language production that can be used by researchers of different languages. NECHSLS is currently being implemented and should be available for external use in spring 2012. This project is being funded by the UMass Digital Humanities Initiative and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.


Luiz Amaral
Marcus Maia (UFRJ)
Elder Lanes (UFRR)
Wendy Leandro (UFRR)

Indigenous Bilingual Education in Brazil

This project is a partnership between LARC, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR) in Brazil. Its overarching goal is to support the instruction of native languages by local indigenous schools in different Brazilian communities. The project activities are divided into three steps: (i) identifying language structures that can be used to support curriculum development and assess the linguistic development of school-aged kids; (ii) increasing the production of pedagogical materials and formal assessments to be used by language teachers; (iii) discussing with local teachers possible pedagogical initiatives to reinforce the use of the native languages at school in order to expose learners to the language of their communities and help them develop their language skills.


Bridget Pinsonneault

The Effect of Enhancing Learner Input Via Computer Assisted Language Learning Tools: On the Acquisition of Clitics by Spanish Second Language Learners

This project contributes to the growing body of research in second language acquisition that investigates the facilitative effects of drawing learner attention to problematic aspects of linguistic input through input enhancement (IE). The research examines the extent to which input enhancement (Sharwood Smith 1991, 1993) via typographically altered texts facilitates the acquisition of clitics for university level native English speakers enrolled in both beginner and advanced levels of Spanish foreign language courses. The consequences of the research will lead to a better understanding of how local comprehension can be assisted via the use of Input Enhancement techniques and the implementation of innovative Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) activities for foreign language instruction.