Language Acquisition

Developmental Psycholinguistics Lab

At the Developmental Psycholinguistics Lab we study how children between the ages of 2 and 12 years acquire their first language and how that interacts with other aspects of their cognitive development. We use a variety of behavioral tasks including eye-tracking to test children’s language production, perception, and comprehension. The lab houses two research groups. 


To learn more about the DPL, visit the website here.

Phonological Development Group

Faculty: Angeliki Athanasopoulou (

Our group studies how children develop the sound system of their language, focusing on prosodic patterns larger than the word. Our studies are typically cross-linguistic investigations of children’s production and perception abilities. Other main topics of research is the information pre-linguistic children use at the very beginning to break into their language (bootstrapping theories) as well as the role of a changing input in language acquisition.

Students: Summer Abdalla (MA), Madeline MacLean (BA Hons), Anika Rogalski (BA)

Semantic and Pragmatic Development Group

Faculty: Dimitrios Skordos (

Our main research question is how children learn the meanings of words and phrases in their language and how they use their language-learning abilities to think about and understand context and the intentions of others. Projects in the group include the acquisition of quantifiers and logical connectives as well as the acquisition of spatial terms and motion event and how that interacts with memory and non-linguistic cognition.”

Students: Cheryl Iwanchuk (MA)




Skordos, D., Feiman, R., Bale, A., & Barner, D. (2020). Do children interpret ‘or’ conjunctively? Journal of Semantics.


Landau, B., Johannes, K., Skordos, D., & Papafragou, A. (2017). Containment and support: Core and complexity in spatial language learning. Cognitive science41, 748-779.


Skordos, D., & Papafragou, A. (2016). Children’s derivation of scalar implicatures: alternatives and relevance. Cognition, 153, 6-18.

Bunger, A., Skordos, D., Trueswell, J., & Papafragou, A. (2016). How adults and children encode causative events cross-linguistically: Implications for language production and attention. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 31, 1015-1037.


Skordos, D., & Papafragou, A. (2014). Lexical, syntactic, and semantic-geometric factors in the acquisition of motion predicatesDevelopmental Psychology, 50, 1985-1998.

Book Chapters


Skordos, D. & Barner, D. Language comprehension, inference, and alternatives. In C. Cummins & N. Katsos (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Papafragou, A. & Skordos, D. Scalar Implicature. In J. Lidz, W. Snyder & J. Pater, (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Developmental Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Second Language Acquisition

*This research group is not active currently.

PI: Dr. Susanne Carroll

Former members: Lindsay Hracs, Kelly Burkinshaw, Elias Abdollahnejad

One of the primary goals of our research is to learn more about how adult second language learners learn functional categories at the earliest stages of acquisition, i.e. on first exposure.  Much of the research done with real learners (as opposed to artificial language learning studies) is descriptive. Instead, we are controlling the stimuli and population of interest in such a way that we can make stronger claims about cause and effect in learning.




Hracs, L. (2019). A corpus study of only in child-directed and child-produced speech. In E. Dmyterko (Ed.), Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association.


Hracs, L. (2016). The role of salience in the second language acquisition of focus structure. In L. Hracs, Proceedings  of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association.



Hracs, L. (2018). An event structure approach to the human vs. non-human distinction. In Wm. G. Bennett, L. Hracs, & D. R. Storoshenko (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (pp. 186-193). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.


Hracs, L. (2017). An event structure approach to the human vs. non-human distinction. Poster presented at the 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 35), April 2017, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada. Poster.


Hracs, L. (2016). Second language acquisition and language contact: The relationship between synchronic and diachronic processes. Poster presented at the Language Research Centre’s Annual Student Poster Symposium, University of Calgary, April 2016, Calgary, AB. Poster.