Current Projects


1. L1 vs. L2 attrition

Investigator: Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro

The Differential Stability Hypothesis (DSH, Cabrelli Amaro, 2017) accepts the notion of a critical period for optimal acquisition and posits that adult L2 systems, even when they appear target-like, are representationally different than L1 systems. However, unlike previous investigations of a critical period that center around ultimate attainment in the L2, the DSH defines the critical period in terms of differential stability of the grammar, predicting that a system acquired in adulthood should be more vulnerable to influence from a third language than a system acquired in childhood. Currently, we are testing the descriptive and explanatory adequacies of strong and weak versions of the hypothesis across the domains of phonology and morphosyntax. We have initiated a longitudinal study of multiple phonological and morphosyntactic phenomena that present differently in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese to determine whether the constitution of these two types of systems is fundamentally different, or if domain general mechanisms such as inhibitory control might explain potential permeability. Longitudinal observation crucially allows for the control of individual variation, such that participants act as their own encapsulated control.


2. L1 attrition of perception and production of illusory vowels

Investigators: Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Alicia Luque (UIC), Irene Finestrat-Martínez (UIC)

This study investigates L1 modification in the perception of illusory vowels by L1 Brazilian Portuguese (BP)/L2 English speakers. (C)VC syllables with a coda stop consonant violate syllabic structure constraints in BP, but are licit in English. As a result, BP speakers perceive an illusory /i/ between illicit consonant clusters and produce an epenthesized /i/ after coda stop consonants in word-medial and final position. Existing perceptual attrition studies indicate that perception of segmental phenomena is vulnerable to attrition while perception of suprasegmental phenomena may not be. However, effects on L1 perception when the L2 phonology allows a syllabic structure that is illicit in the L1 are largely unknown. To determine the degree of the illusory effect due to phonotactics, we implement vowel identification and ABX perception tasks as well as a concatenation production task.


3. The roles of the L1 and L2 in L3 morphosyntactic development

Investigators: Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Mike Iverson (Indiana University), Becky Halloran González (University of Iowa), David Giancaspro (University of Richmond)

Much recent L3 initial stages research points to non-facilitative transfer from the L1 or L2, and it is conceivable that non-facilitative transfer from the L2 creates an L3 learning task that is qualitatively different than the learning task that transfer from the L1 creates. With this in mind, the aim of this study is to identify potential differences in the developmental sequence between learners that have transferred their L1 versus their L2. Specifically, we examine whether development will be slower for learners that have transferred their L1 and hypothesize that L1 entrenchment impedes L3 intake. Comparing grammaticality judgment data from L3 initial stages and L3 advanced learners for two morphosyntactic domains, we confirmed the hypothesis, although it remained unclear whether dominance or age of acquisition was responsible for the observed outcome. In order to tease apart these variables, we examine heritage Spanish speakers, who pattern with L1 Spanish/L2 English speakers with regards to age of acquisition but with L1 English/L2 Spanish speakers with regards to dominance.


4. L3 phonology: Initial stages transfer and early development

Investigators: Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Carrie Pichan, Jaydene Elvin (Fresno State University)

A growing body of research indicates that structural similarity drives transfer of one system over another at the L3 initial stages, with a particularly robust effect for English/Spanish bilinguals acquiring L3 Romance languages (see Rothman et al., in press, for review). However, there is a dearth of evidence from the phonological domain. These studies aim to fill that gap via examination of several phonological phenomena that differ between Portuguese and Spanish (nasal vowels and nasalization, mid vowel contrasts, and postvocalic stop realization, or Italian and Spanish (postvocalic stop lenition, phonotactics, (alveo)palatal consonants). Learners complete a series of perception tasks and/or a delayed repetition task in the L1, L2, and L3 five weeks into the semester to determine initial transfer of English or Spanish.


5. L3 initial stages transfer across domains of grammar

Investigators: Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Carrie Pichan, Jason Rothman (University of Reading, UiT the Arctic University of Norway), Ludovica Serratrice (University of Reading)

Although there is no question that structural similarity plays a deterministic role for L3 transfer selection, recent models question the Typological Primacy Model’s (e.g., Rothman, 2015) argument of whole-grammar transfer (not property-by-property) at the L3 initial stages (Slabakova, 2017; Westergaard et al., 2017). Moreover, the vast majority of available data examine adult L3 acquisition in late L2 learners. Thus, it is not clear if and how L3 models of morphosyntactic transfer pertain to other types of bilinguals or extend to other domains, e.g. phonology. To address these issues, we examine heritage speaker (HS) bilinguals acquiring an L3 (Italian) in adulthood and examine two domains of grammar, syntax and phonology, soon after initial L3 exposure. Understanding transfer patterns across domains can help determine if transfer is wholesale or not from the outset. Specifically, we examine copula choice (essere vs stare) and differential object marking (DOM) via a grammaticality task, and voiced stop lenition via a delayed repetition task. Crucially, all three phenomena pattern together in English and Italian—a single copula is used across conditions we examine, there is no DOM or lenition—and differently in Spanish and Italian, the more similar language pair.


6. Acquisition of the Spanish palatal nasal

Investigators: Sara Stefanich, Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro, Brian Rocca (Indiana University), Leire Echevarria (University of Florida)

The purpose of this project is to determine whether formation of a new category for the Spanish palatal nasal /ɲ/ is blocked by equivalence classification in L2 or heritage Spanish development. English and Spanish /ɲ/ production by beginner and advanced L1 English/L2 Spanish learners and Spanish heritage speakers are examined, to determine whether these participants approximate a target-like Spanish /ɲ/ or if they instead employ a more English-like heterosyllabic [n+j] sequence.


7. Phonological aspects of word-internal phonological code-switches

Investigators: Sara Stefanich, Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro

This project, funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS 1823909) takes a laboratory phonology approach to intraword code switching (CS) to determine the minimum morphological unit within which a bilingual can combine elements from their two phonological systems. Previous research on intraword CS considers two potential types of switches: morphological and phonological. Morphological switches are common and attested within the literature (e.g. MacSwan 2000). On the other hand, it has been claimed that a phonological switch between a root and its affixes is not possible (Bandi-Rao & DenDikken, 2014; MacSwan, 2000; MacSwan & Colina, 2014). Instead, a morphologically switched word is predicted to evidence only one phonology, and impressionistic data suggest that morphologically switched words employ only the phonology of the language of the affixes. However, there is no experimental evidence to confirm the proposed ban on intraword phonological switches. This project examines intraword switches of early Mexican Spanish/English bilinguals via two experiments. The first is a production study that examines the phonetic realization of CS verbs (here, verbs with an English-like nonce root and Spanish affixes). Specifically, it investigates whether these bilinguals produce English segments in the (English-like) root of a CS verb. The second experiment is an acceptability judgment task in which participants evaluate the phonology of morphologically switched words with three types of phonological compositions. Participants evaluate auditory stimuli consisting of a) English phonology in the root and Spanish phonology in the affixes, b) English phonology only, c) Spanish phonology only. These experiments will inform whether bilinguals produce phonologically switched words and accept phonologically switched words as licit outputs in a CS grammar.


8. CLLD in L2 and Heritage Spanish: Findings from learners’ judgment and production data

Investigators: José Sequeros Valle (UIC), Bradley Hoot (DePaul University), Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro

This project examines whether L1 English/adult L2 Spanish and Spanish heritage speakers distinguish when it is discursively appropriate to use Spanish Clitic-doubled Left Dislocation (CLLD) in a speeded production task. It t compares these production results with judgment data to adjudicate between processing limitations and representational deficits as potential sources of Spanish target divergence.