Carnegie Mellon University

Second Language Acquisition Ph.D. Program

The primary goal of this program is to educate and prepare future researchers and leaders in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Program graduates will have developed a strong interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of the development, use, and maintenance of second languages, along with the knowledge and skills needed to conduct high-quality empirical investigations. They will learn to critically integrate old and new knowledge to produce real world applications in the areas of language teaching, language learning, language policy, and language maintenance.

Characteristics of the Program

The first defining characteristic of the program is a strong commitment to cross-linguistic and cross-cultural factors in second language learning. The program emphasizes research in the context of multiple languages. Admission to the program requires an advanced level of proficiency in at least one of the languages taught by the department (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish) in order to carry out research and teach in that language.

The second defining characteristic of the program is the strong interdisciplinary emphasis supported by a network of related programs in cognitive sciences, linguistics, social sciences, cultural studies, and education. These interdisciplinary connections draw on the strengths of faculty in Modern Languages, English, Philosophy, and Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences; faculty in the Language Technologies Institute of the School of Computer Science; and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the departments of Linguistics and Instruction & Learning, and the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).

The third defining characteristic is the program's combination of a broad academic experience with an active apprenticeship within a community of researchers. Beginning in the first year, students engage in hands-on research training through collaboration with faculty. In addition, they participate in a supervised language teaching experience across a range of levels, teaching one course each semester under the supervision of a language program coordinator.

The fourth defining characteristic of the program is the formulation of an individualized course of study that builds on the student's prior knowledge and experience. Over the course of a complete program, students gradually assume greater control and responsibility over their research activities and course work, culminating in the dissertation.