Carnegie Mellon University


The research and scholarly activities of faculty members of the Department of Modern Languages relate to three broad areas: applied linguistics and second language acquisition, literary and cultural studies, and materials development and pedagogical innovation through technology-enhanced learning courseware, textbooks, and other curriculum projects.

Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

Faculty research in applied linguistics and SLA focuses on several distinct, but complementary, aspects of second language acquisition.  In keeping with the program's emphases on cross-linguistic orientations, interdisciplinary approaches, and non-English focus, faculty inquiry centers on various cognitive, linguistic, and social factors affecting the acquisition, use, and maintenance of second or multiple languages.  Key aspects of this research include literacy development in multiple languages, social dimensions of learning a second language (context, identity, culture), instruction and learning of second languages (classroom based research, program evaluation, impact of instruction on learning, and cognitive aspects of learning a second language (processing, memory).  Literacy foci include research that addresses questions relating to both universal and language-specific requirements for reading acquisition in diverse languages, as well as their collective impacts on learning to read in a second language.  Research focusing on learning context includes studies involving longitudinal tracking of the development of Spanish and Japanese in elementary and middle schools, qualitative and quantitative changes in Spanish and French in study abroad contexts, as well as the acquisition of Spanish academic language in a bilingual professional training program.

Literary and Cultural Studies

Faculty interests in the area of Literary and Cultural Studies (LCS) are broad and varied. LCS research in Modern Languages cuts across hemispheric and numerous national boundaries, ethnic identities and linguistic borders. In their inquiries, faculty members employ various disciplinary approaches, including but not limited to anthropology, ethnography, history, linguistics, literary analysis, psychology and sociology, and some are exploring new ways in which to further disseminate their work and also incorporate it into their teaching, e.g., web publishing and archiving, multimedia courseware and film. Some of the topics that faculty members examine include national and both high and popular culture, urban studies, migration, diaspora, exile, identity, and gender.

Technology-Enhanced Learning and Curricular Materials Development

Faculty research in this area intersects with and informs classroom pedagogy.  Technology-enhanced learning courseware projects include Chinese Online, French Online, and Spanish Online programs, and the development of textbooks for the teaching of Chinese, French, German, and Spanish languages and cultures. Courseware development has involved collaborations with the university-wide Open Learning Initiative and Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center.  Projects with international partners have investigated intercultural competence in virtual worlds, multimodal online collaborative learning, and technology-based international tutoring.