Graduate degree: Ph.D. in second language acquisition

Second language acquisition (SLA) is a multidisciplinary field whose goal is to understand the processes that underlie non-native language learning. The doctoral program in second language acquisition draws from varied academic disciplines, among them linguistics, psychology, psycholinguistics, sociology, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and education.

The interdisciplinary Ph.D. in second language acquisition is sponsored by Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education (FLARE). More than 20 faculty members affiliated with SLA are drawn from various departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education.

The SLA doctoral program emphasizes theory, research, and classroom-based teaching and learning. All students take courses in SLA theory, multimedia, research methods, language learning and linguistics. In addition, each student defines an area of specialization, in consultation with a SLA advisor. The two broad areas of specialization are language learning and postsecondary education, and linguistics and psycholinguistics.

Students in the language learning and postsecondary education specialization area demonstrate interest in issues where SLA and pedagogy converge. This includes classroom discourse, assessment, and the acquisition of grammatical knowledge in the classroom context. Students also may focus on aspects of technology and how it facilitates second language acquisition.

Students in the linguistics and psycholinguistics specialization area exhibit interest in areas of formal linguistics (e.g., syntax, phonology, morphology) and/or applied linguistics issues that relate to their particular second language focus. Student projects include the acquisition of the syntactic structures and/or phonological features of a second language, and generative and cognitive approaches to explaining acquisition. Students who work in psycholinguistics also may focus on the relationship between language processing and language acquisition.

Second Language Acquisition is one of the units in the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Graduate Program of Study


The Language Media Center (LMC) is an essential resource unit for faculty and students in the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures. The LMC provides a wide variety of facilities and services for traditional language laboratory work as well as for foreign language digital media production and computer-based activities. The LMC facilities include a 50-computer information technology center (ITC), two digital audio laboratories, a multimedia development studio, a One Button Studio for video production, 13 media viewing stations, and six small-group collaboration spaces. The LMC also circulates a collection of over 3,000 foreign language, American Sign Language, and English as a Second Language digital media materials.

The Autonomous Language Learning Network (ALLNet), administered by the Language Media Center in the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures, offers scholarship opportunities to learn critical and less commonly taught languages that are not currently taught at the University of Iowa. Any current University of Iowa student, staff, or faculty member who is interested in pursuing language study to enhance their professional research or academic profile can apply for an ALLNet scholarship. With the support of the ALLNet staff, learners design their own study plans to learn basic language skills or improve upon existing skills in preparation for study or research abroad. Upon admission to the program, learners are provided with learning materials and tutorial sessions with a trained language and culture consultant.

Second Language Acquisition Courses

SLA:3302 Introduction to Chinese Linguistics3 s.h.

Aspects of modern Chinese linguistics, such as Chinese phonology, syntax, pedagogical grammar, history of the language. Taught in English. Same as CHIN:3302, LING:3302.

SLA:3400 Articulatory and Acoustic Phonetics3 s.h.

Production and transcription of sounds in human languages; physics of sound, computer analysis of speech sounds. Offered fall semesters. Same as LING:3005.

SLA:4300 Introduction to Spanish Syntax3 s.h.

Basic principles of generative syntax as applied to analysis of Spanish syntactic structure; extensive syntactic analysis. Prerequisites: SPAN:3100. Same as SPAN:4150.

SLA:4301 Introduction to Spanish Phonology3 s.h.

Sound patterns of Spanish; how various theoretical approaches solve basic problems in Spanish phonology; identification of linguistic universals, how they are manifested in the sound structure of Spanish. Same as SPAN:4100.

SLA:4401 Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language3 s.h.

Observations of ESL and intensive English classes at the University; design and presentation of short lessons, text evaluation, demonstrations of innovative approaches of the last decade; materials. Offered spring semesters. Prerequisites: LING:3005 and LING:4040. Same as LING:4050.

SLA:5000 Teaching and Learning Languages3 s.h.

Readings in pedagogical theory and practice, second language acquisition; experience designing activities for teaching and assessment with critiques based on current theories and approaches; development of reflective practices toward one's language teaching. Same as FREN:5000, GRMN:5001, SPAN:5000, WLLC:5000.

SLA:5010 Introduction to Syntax3 s.h.

Methods and argumentation for formal analysis of sentence structure through induction from language data of central concepts and relations; hypothesis testing, empirical bases of theoretical concepts. Corequisites: LING:5000. Same as LING:5010.

SLA:5020 Introduction to Phonology3 s.h.

Analysis of sound systems, focus on early generative phonological theory; extensive practice in analysis using data from a variety of languages; linguistic argumentation. Prerequisites: LING:3005. Same as LING:5020.

SLA:5401 First Language Acquisition3 s.h.

Child language from a crosslinguistic perspective. Prerequisites: LING:3005 and (LING:4040 or LING:5010). Same as LING:5030.

SLA:5441 Japanese as a Foreign Language: Practical Applications3 s.h.

Instructional methodology, curriculum, and material design; hands-on experience. Same as JPNS:5401.

SLA:6010 Syntactic Theory3 s.h.

Current syntactic theory examined through analysis of data sets, readings in recent research; emphasis on argument construction, statement of formal principles. Offered spring semesters. Prerequisites: LING:5010. Same as LING:6010.

SLA:6011 Phonological Theory3 s.h.

Post-SPE phonological theory, including autosegmental phonology, feature geometry, the syllable, optimality theory. Prerequisites: LING:5020. Same as LING:6020.

SLA:6301 Topics in Spanish Language Acquisition3 s.h.

Theoretical linguistic approaches to monolingual, bilingual, and second language acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese; varied topics. Requirements: at least one course in linguistics (e.g., general introduction to linguistics). Same as SPAN:6150.

SLA:6302 Topics in Comparative Romance Linguistics3 s.h.

Comparative study of phonology, morphology, or syntax of the main Romance languages as informed by linguistic theory; diachronic or synchronic perspective. Recommendations: additional graduate course work in linguistics. Same as LING:6190, SPAN:6190.

SLA:6303 Spanish Phonology3 s.h.

Modern approaches to synchronic phonology as applied to Spanish; focus on traditional descriptive problems, recent generative analyses. Requirements: phonology or linguistics course. Same as SPAN:6110.

SLA:6304 Spanish Syntax3 s.h.

Spanish syntactic constructions examined in framework of selected syntactic theory; emphasis on development of syntactic argumentation. Requirements: one course in syntax. Same as SPAN:6120.

SLA:6403 Special Topics in Japanese Linguistics3 s.h.

Topics in applied linguistics and language pedagogy related to Japanese language. Same as JPNS:6403.

SLA:6452 Topics in Second Language Acquisition3 s.h.

Overview of current second-language acquisition research in the generative linguistic framework; focus on characterizing second language learners' linguistic competence and how it is constrained by principles of universal grammar. Offered fall semesters. Prerequisites: (LING:3010 or LING:5010) and (LING:3020 or LING:5020). Same as LING:6080.

SLA:6500 Issues in Foreign Language Education3 s.h.

Theoretical perspectives of pivotal research issues at the forefront of foreign language education; systems available to foreign language professionals for disseminating research. Same as EDTL:6480.

SLA:6501 Reading in a Second Language3 s.h.

Current theory, research, practice in second language reading field; role of textual features and the reader in reading comprehension. Same as EDTL:6484.

SLA:6502 Principles of Course Design for Second Language Instruction3 s.h.

Contemporary views of second language curriculum design; guidelines necessary for the creation of prototypical curriculum units to be transposed into classroom-ready forms; for individuals interested in foreign language materials development. Same as EDTL:6497.

SLA:6503 Fundamentals of Second Language Assessment3 s.h.

How to write language tests; discussion of fundamental issues in development of new tests or selection of existing tests. Same as EDTL:6400.

SLA:6504 Second Language Program Management3 s.h.

Preparation for supervising, administering foreign language programs at all levels; for precollegiate language teachers and graduate students. Same as EDTL:6402.

SLA:6506 Second Language Classroom Learning3 s.h.

Synthesis of empirical findings on children's and adults' learning of a second or foreign language; emphasis on theoretical underpinnings of approaches, methods, techniques in language teaching. Same as ASIA:6483, EDTL:6483.

SLA:6901 Second Language Acquisition Research and Theory3 s.h.

Theories regarding success and failure in acquisition of second or subsequent languages; research, issues. Same as ASIA:6901, FREN:6901, JPNS:6901, SPAN:6901.

SLA:6902 Second Language Acquisition Research and Theory II3 s.h.

Continuation of SLA:6901. Prerequisites: SLA:6901. Same as ASIA:6903, SPAN:6902.

SLA:6920 Multimedia and Second Language Acquisition3 s.h.

Combination of theory and practice regarding use of multimedia and technology to enhance foreign language teaching and second language acquisition research. Same as FREN:6920, GRMN:6920, SPAN:6920.

SLA:6950 Topics in Second Language Acquisition: Speaking3 s.h.

Theory, pedagogy, research, and assessment in second language speaking. Same as FREN:6950, SPAN:6950.

SLA:6965 Topics in Second Language Acquisition: Writing3 s.h.

Theory, pedagogy, research, and assessment in second language writing. Taught in English. Same as RHET:6965, SPAN:6965.

SLA:6970 Cultural Curriculum3 s.h.

Culture's role in foreign/second language teaching; definition, pedagogy, assessment, and materials that allow culture to be taught and learned. Same as EDTL:6409.

SLA:7020 Readings in Second Language Acquisitionarr.

SLA:7025 Special Projects in Second Language Acquisitionarr.

SLA:7030 Ph.D. Thesisarr.

SLA:7401 Advanced Syntactic Theory2-3 s.h.

Recent developments in syntax; comparison of theories, argumentation, and uses of data. Prerequisites: LING:6010. Same as LING:7010.

SLA:7404 Seminar: Problems in Linguistics2-3 s.h.

Intensive study of theoretical and practical problems. Same as LING:7090.

SLA:7405 Teaching Chinese as a Second Language V: Seminar in Research and Design3 s.h.

Qualitative and quantitative research design theories and techniques. Prerequisites: CHIN:7401 and PSQF:4143. Same as CHIN:7405.

SLA:7406 Teaching Chinese as a Second Language I: Theories and Research3 s.h.

Research, theory on acquisition of Chinese as a non-native language. Same as CHIN:7401.

SLA:7804 Teaching Chinese as a Second Language IV: Testing and Assessment3 s.h.

Overview of goals, concepts, principles, research, and issues in assessment and testing of Chinese as a second language. Same as CHIN:7404.