Indiana University

The Department of Second Language Studies

Rex A. Sprouse

Photo of Rex A. Sprouse

  • Professor of Second Language Studies
  • Adjunct Professor of Linguistics and Germanic Studies
  • Director of Graduate Studies of Second Language Studies Department
    (812) 855-3248
    Ballantine Hall 710

Research Interests

  • Second language acquisition
  • Structure and history of the languages of Western Europe (Germanic, Romance, Celtic) and Turkish
  • Syntactic theory
  • Language contact


  • Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics, Princeton University, 1989
  • M.A. in Germanic linguistics, Princeton University, 1983
  • B.A. in comparative literature and German, Hiram College, 1979

Personal Statement

The primary goal of my research is to gain a better understanding of the adult second language paradox: Why is that adults exposed to a nonnative language develop systems of linguistic knowledge of a startlingly rich and complex nature, including properties for which there is little or no evidence in the input ("poverty/bankruptcy of the stimulus"), while still (in a large percentage of cases) experiencing significant difficulty in the acquisition and use of relatively "simple" features of word choice and form? I am best known in second language studies for proposing (together with Bonnie D. Schwartz, University of Hawaii/) the Full Transfer/Full Access hypothesis and for pioneering (together with Laurent Dekydtspotter, Indiana University) research on the syntax-semantics interface in English-French interlanguage. I am currently developing the Deep Lexical Transfer Hypothesis, which a re-conceptualizes Full Transfer in terms of relexification/relabeling in the sense that Claire Lefebvre (Université du Québec à Montréal) has used these terms to describe creole genesis. I am also considering ways in which the Language Instinct becomes "blunted" over the course of the life span, even though the fundamental architecture of grammars and processing mechanisms remain untouched.

Additional topics that have captured my interest over the years include case and agreement in German and Icelandic, perfect auxiliary selection in Romance and Germanic, the comparative correlative construction in German, the syntax of ditransitive verbs in the Germanic languages, and the development of tag questions in Welsh.

Selected Publications

  • BARDOVI-HARLIG, KATHLEEN, and REX A. SPROUSE. (in press, scheduled to appear in 2017) Negative and positive transfer. In The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching, ed. by John Liontas, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • ÖZÇELIK, ÖNER, and REX A. SPROUSE. 2017. Emergent knowledge of a universal phonological principle in the L2 acquisition of vowel harmony in Turkish: A ‘four’-fold poverty of the stimulus in L2 acquisition. Second Language Research. 33.179-206.
  • SCHWARTZ, BONNIE D., and REX A. SPROUSE. 2017. Universal Grammar and second language acquisition. In The Oxford handbook of Universal Grammar, ed. by Ian Roberts, 289-304. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ÖZÇELIK, ÖNER, and REX A. SPROUSE. 2016. Decreasing dependence on orthography in phonological development: Evidence from vowel harmony in English-Turkish interlanguage. In Second language acquisition of Turkish, ed. by Ayşe Gürel, 49-72. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
  • SPROUSE, REX A. 2016. What are generative models models of? GASLA 13: Proceedings of the 13th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference, ed. by David Stringer, Jordan Garrett, Becky Halloran, and Sabrina Mossman, 1-13. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
  • SCHWARTZ, BONNIE D., and REX A. SPROUSE. 2013. Generative approaches and the poverty of the stimulus. In The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition, ed. by Julia Herschensohn and Martha Young-Scholten, 137-158, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • DARCY, ISABELLE; LAURENT DEKYDTSPOTTER; REX A. SPROUSE; JUSTIN GLOVER; CHRISTIANE KADEN; MICHAEL MCGUIRE; and JOHN H.G. SCOTT. 2012. Direct mapping of acoustics to phonology: On the lexical encoding of front round vowels in L1 English-L2 French acquisition. Second Language Research 28. 5-40.
  • SPROUSE, REX A. 2011. The Interface Hypothesis and Full Transfer/Full Access/Full Parse: A brief comparison. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 1.97-100.
  • SPROUSE, REX A. 2010. The invisibility of SLA theory in mainstream creole linguistics. Second Language Research 26. 261-277.

Courses Taught

  • Acquiring New Language Systems
  • English Grammar and Second Language Acquisition
  • Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
  • Introduction to the American Experience for International Students
  • Language Typology
  • Seminar in Applied Linguistics
  • Topics in Applied Linguistics: Language Transfer

The learning of second and foreign languages is a rich and fascinating process involving linguistic, psychological, cultural, and social dimensions. The Indiana University Department of Second Language Studies is dedicated to teaching and research on the structure, acquisition, and use of nonnative language in both instructed and contact contexts.