Karen Lichtman - NIU - Foreign Languages & Literatures


Karen Lichtman

Karen Lichtman

PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Linguistics
MA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Linguistics
BA, Williams College, Spanish and Psychology

My research focuses on age effects in second language acquisition. Children are thought to learn languages effortlessly and reliably, whereas adults learn faster in the early stages of L2 acquisition but ultimately fall short of nativelike attainment. How can we explain these phenomena? I examine both learner-internal factors, such as maturationally based cognitive changes in implicit and explicit learning, and learner-external factors, such as the amount of language input and type of instruction, that could cause adults to learn languages differently from children. I am also interested in whether these differences are inevitable. This research has implications for theories of language learning, curriculum design, and language teaching for learners of different ages.

In addition to second language acquisition, I also do work in the area of L1 and L2 phonology. Phonology is particularly interesting because it is the aspect of language that shows the earliest age effects, and is often not the subject of explicit instruction, meaning that learners must acquire phonology through exposure to large numbers of exemplars. Because adults have more experience with their first language than children do, they may also find it more difficult to develop nativelike phonological categories in a second language.


Reichle, R., Birmantas, R., Lichtman, K., & Moteau Peters, J. (in revision). "Sex-Based, Cultural, and Student-Teacher Differences in Attitudes Towards Second Language Grammar Instruction."

Lichtman, K. (in preparation). "Absence of an Articulatory Gesture: Three Experimental Studies of Tongue Tip Gestures for Coda /t/ in American English."

Lichtman, K. (submitted). "Communicative Language Use and Explicit Grammar Knowledge in Child Classroom L2 Spanish Learners." To appear in Garcia Mayo, M. (Ed.) Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School: Research Insights. United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.

Lichtman, K. (forthcoming). "Age and Learning Environment: Are Children Implicit Second Language Learners?" Journal of Child Language.

Cartford, B. A., Holter Kittok, J., & Lichtman, K. (forthcoming). "Measuring Fluency Development in Content-Based Storytelling Elementary Spanish Instruction." The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching.

Lichtman, K. 2015. "Research on TPR Storytelling." In B. Ray & C. Seely, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling. Berkeley: Command Performance Language Institute.

Lichtman, K. 2014. "Teaching Language Through Storytelling." The Language Educator (October/November).

Winters, S., Lichtman, K., & Weber, S. 2013. "The role of linguistic knowledge in the encoding of words and voices in memory." SLRF (Second Language Research Forum) proceedings. Available at http://www.lingref.com/cpp/slrf/2011/paper2911.pdf

Lichtman, K. 2013. "Age, ability, and awareness in implicit and explicit second language learning." Extended abstract, eLanguage. Available at http://www.linguisticsociety.org/files/3534-6885-1-SM.pdf

Lichtman, K. 2013. "Developmental Comparisons of Implicit and Explicit Language Learning." Language Acquisition, 20(2), 93-108. Available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10489223.2013.766740

Lichtman, K. 2012. Review of Teaching Linguistics: Reflections on Practice (Koenraad Kuiper, ed.)  Journal of Sociolinguistics, 16:5.

Lichtman, K. 2012. Research on TPR Storytelling. In B. Ray & C. Seely, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling (304-311). Berkeley: Command Performance Language Institute.

Lichtman, K.; Chang, S.; Cramer, J.; Crespo del Rio, C.; Hallett, J.; Huensch, A.; & Morales, A. 2010. "IPA Illustration of Q'anjob'al." Studies in the Linguistic Sciences: Illinois Working Papers 2010: 1-23. Peer reviewed. Available at https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/17090

Lichtman, K. 2009. "Acquisition of Attributive and Predicative Adjective Agreement in L2 Spanish." Proceedings of the 10th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2009), edited by Melissa Bowles, Tania Ionin, Silvina Montrul, and Annie Tremblay. Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA. Available at http://www.lingref.com/cpp/gasla/10/abstract2273.html

Lichtman, K. 2009. "Deutsche Sprache, Schwere Sprache: Germany's Immigrant Language Policy." Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 12, 1, 43-67.


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E-mail Karen Lichtman
Watson Hall 112
(815) 753-6443