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SLA Research Group

SLAC (Second Language Acquisition and Cognition) Research Group, the first of its kind at the University of Georgia, is a research group dedicated to the investigation of Second Language Acquisition through cognitive approaches.

We navigate fields such as (but not limited to):

  • L2 phonology
  • L2 morphology
  • L2 syntax
  • L2 semantics
  • L2 pragmatics

We also draw from broader fields, such as Cognitive Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, Cognitive Science of Language, and Bilingualism.


Dr. Vera Lee-SchoenfeldDr. Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, Director

Vera Lee-Schoenfeld is primarily a theoretical linguist with a research focus on German syntax. She also has an interest in language acquisition, holding degrees in TESOL and French Language Education. She is the co-author of Language Matters: A Guide to Everyday Questions about Language, Second edition (2010) with Donna Jo Napoli from Swarthmore College.


Jean Costa-SilvaJean Costa-Silva, PhD Candidate, Coordinator

Jean's interests pertain to second language acquisition and syntax. He has a BA in English Linguistics and TESOL as well as teaching certificates from the University of Oregon and the University of Cambridge. His work focuses on Cognitive Linguistics and the acquisition of motion encoding lexicalization patterns.


Shulin ZhangShulin Zhang, PhD Candidate

Shulin does research in Computational and Neural Linguistics. She explores the brain mechanism of zero pronouns and their discourse support resources. She has prior experience in Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Electric Engineering. 


AmeliaAmelia Abbott, PhD Student

Amelia's interests encompass second language acquisition and signed languages. Her research focuses on M2L2 (second modality second language) acquisition, in which a language user acquires a new language in a different modality (spoken, signed, or haptic). Amelia is a visiting student at the University of Michigan's Sign Language & Multimodal Communication Lab.


Seaira LettSeaira Lett, PhD Student

Seaira’s interests include language documentation and indigenous languages of Latin America. Her work focuses on the morphosyntax of Chuj, a Mayan language from Guatemala. Seaira previously served as a kindergarten teacher at a dual-language school in Kansas City, MO, where she taught reading, math, and social studies in Spanish and science in English. 


PlaceholderGraham Burgess, PhD Student

Graham's research interests lie primarily in syntax and semantics, and he is particularly interested in event semantics as well as tense, aspect (both lexical and grammatical), mood, telicity, and the relationships among them.


Michael WolfmanMichael Wolfman, M.A. Student

Michael's research interests lie at the nexus of Syntax, Human Sentence Processing, and Computational Linguistics. He conducts research with faculty members from the University of Georgia and University of Alabama.


Caroline SchneiderCaroline Schneider, M.A. Student

Caroline's areas of interest are Hispanic Linguistics, Phonetics & Phonology, and Language Acquisition. Caroline previously worked as an administrative assistant at UNC Press. She continues her work in publishing as a graduate assistant at UGA Press.


PlaceholderMichael Gray, M.A. Student




Cullen GiddensCullen Giddens, Undergraduate Student

Cullen is an Undergraduate student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Georgia. He is currently majoring in Linguistics with a French minor. Special interests include syntax, second language acquisition, and bilingualism. 


Sarah KudybaSarah Kudyba, Undergraduate Student

Sarah is an Undergraduate Student in the Department of Linguistics. She is pursuing a B.A. in Linguistics and German and is minoring in Chinese, Cognitive Science, and TESOL. Sarah's interests include Phonetics and Phonology, SLA, Psycholinguistics, German, and Chinese.


PlaceholderMorgan Riley, Undergraduate Student




PlaceholderGrace Ammons, Undergraduate Student




Current Research Projects:

  • The effects of instructor's proficiency on students’ pronunciation (Spanish/Korean)
  • The acquisition of verb-argument constructions by English speakers and ASL signers
  • L1 use and L2 acquisition of reduced relative clauses
  • Acquisition of L2 syntax and inflectional morphology
  • The emergence of English VACs in L1 Portuguese and L1 Italian students' written production
  • The emergence of English VACs in L1 Japanese and L1 Chinese students' written production
  • The effects of Latin instruction on L3 acquisition


  • Costa-Silva, J., Lee-Schoenfeld, V. "(Syntactically) Branching out Beyond the Traditional Classroom: A Report on the Discovery Method" (poster). 2023 Spring Teaching Symposium, University of Georgia.
  • Kudyba, S., Giddens, C., Costa-Silva, J., Lee-Schoenfeld, V. "The Acquisition of VAC Patterns by L2 English Learners from L1 Mandarin Chinese and L1 Japanese Backgrounds" (talk). 2023 CURO Symposium, University of Georgia.
  • Giddens, C., Kudyba, S., Costa-Silva, J., Lee-Schoenfeld, V. "Understanding the Acquisition of English VACs by Speakers of Two Typologically Similar L1s: Brazilian Portuguese and Italian" (poster). 2023 CURO Symposium, University of Georgia.

Frequently Asked Questions:

*Important: our research group does not focus on socio-emotional, contextual factors or language education/instruction. If you are interested in these topics, we strongly encourage contacting our affiliated faculty in the Department of Language and Literacy Education.

Interested in joining?

We accept new members at the beginning of every academic year. Our maximum number of members is 15 (10 graduate students and 5 undergraduate students).

When do we meet?

Our group meets on Fridays, every other week.


Email our coordinator, Jean Costa-Silva, at

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