Course Descriptions-Modern Languages - Carnegie Mellon University

Second Language Acquisition Ph.D. Program Course Descriptions

Second Language Acquisition: Theories and Research (82-783)

This course reviews the field of second language acquisition (SLA) in order to provide students with an understanding of the way in which second languages are learned and acquired. The course will survey various theories of second language acquisition (e.g., Innateness and Universal Grammar, Connectionism, Input/Output, sociocultural theory), and their claims will be examined in the light of recent research findings. The course will also examine the impact of internal and external variables on second language acquisition and development. Some topics include the role of learning environment for language acquisition, explanations for differences in success among second language learners, variations in second language use, and the effect of classroom instruction on second language acquisition. The course also aims to compare methodologies, contexts, and results of the various studies, categorizing patterns and tendencies in their approaches to research, as well as the results of the research.

Research Methods in SLA (82-881)

This course introduces the key concepts of research methodology and design. It also focuses on understanding the basic principles in research design; developing a range of skills to design empirical studies; developing competence in evaluating and critiquing varying types of database studies; and familiarizing students with major research paradigms used in SLA. Students will develop competencies in formulating theoretically motivated research questions, designing appropriate data collection/analysis procedures, providing a legitimate rational for the data collection and analysis procedures, reviewing database SLA studies, and postulating specific implications for their proposed research.

Instruction and Learning (TBD)

This course focuses on exploring classroom-centered research on second language learning. The course surveys classroom research findings and explores the methodological issues related to this context of learning. This course also provides students with an opportunity to engage in research projects in their own classrooms and reflect on the relationship between theory, practice, and learning outcomes.

Language Theories (76-836)

Underlying the theory and practice of SLA is a persistent and inseparable discourse about the nature of language itself. To the extent that this discourse about language is distinct from the discourse about SLA in general, an appreciation of the different ways language has been imagined over the ages is a prerequisite to fully understanding the corresponding ideologies of SLA. A thematic unity for the course will be provided by the tension between two perceptions (sometimes referred to as ideologies) of language: a narrower view as a dyadic structured code that relates forms to meanings, and an alternative view as a component of cognition and social communication. Following are some of the questions studied: How are the relationships among thought (meaning), praxis (usage), and structure (grammar) in language to be theorized? How does language structure in the broader sense interact with cognition and with social structures?

Statistics (36-309/749)

This course covers the most important statistical techniques for the analysis of behavioral data and the design of experiments using examples drawn directly from the psychological and social science literature. The emphasis throughout is on understanding the assumptions that underlie these techniques, and on properly interpreting the results when these techniques are applied.

Introduction to Qualitative Methods (82-885)

This course focuses on the theoretical and practical principles that guide qualitative inquiry in second language and multilingual contexts. The course provides students the opportunity to explore in-depth data collection and analysis tools (e.g., interviews, participant observation, discourse analysis, narrative analysis, etc.). In addition, students reflect upon the ethics and style in research reporting characteristic in this approach. The course is grounded on individual research projects conducted by students during the course of the semester.

Graduate Research Seminar (82-780)

The goal of the seminar is to provide a forum to discuss ongoing research. All graduate students and faculty in the program present their ongoing projects and receive constructive feedback in a positive learning environment. Students also participate in professional development workshops to get involved in activities typical of the SLA field. This seminar meets every week during each semester and is facilitated by faculty members and a committee of graduate students who rotate each semester.