Karen Lichtman

Research Interests

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.

Selected Publications

  • Reichle, R., Birmantas, R., Lichtman, K., and Moteau Peters, J. (in revision). Sex-Based, Cultural, and Student-Teacher Differences in Attitudes Towards Second Language Grammar Instruction.
  • Lichtman, K., and Scarpace, D. (in preparation). Perception and production of L2 Spanish diphthongs by learners of different ages.
  • Lichtman, K. (in preparation). Absence of an Articulatory Gesture: Three Experimental Studies of Tongue Tip Gestures for Coda /t/ in American English.
  • Lichtman, K. (in preparation.) What about fluency? Production speed under implicit and explicit L2 training conditions.
  • Lichtman, K. 2016. Age and learning environment: Are children implicit second language learners? Journal of Child Language, 43, 707-730. doi: 10.1017/S0305000915000598 Available at http://journals.cambridge.org/repo_A10QJ8CXjCSqmA
  • Cartford, B. A., Holter Kittok, J., and Lichtman, K. 2015. Measuring fluency development in Content-Based Storytelling elementary Spanish instruction. The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 10:1 (Summer), 2-9.
  • Lichtman, K. 2015. Research on TPR Storytelling. In B. Ray & C. Seely, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling. Berkeley: Command Performance Language Institute.
  • Lichtman, K. 2014. Comprehensible Input Through Storytelling. The Language Educator, October/November.
  • Winters, S., Lichtman, K., and Weber, S. 2013. The role of linguistic knowledge in the encoding of words and voices in memory. SLRF (Second Language Research Forum) proceedings.
  • Lichtman, K. 2013. Age, ability, and awareness in implicit and explicit second language learning. Extended abstract, eLanguage.
  • Lichtman, K. 2013. Developmental Comparisons of Implicit and Explicit Language Learning. Language Acquisition, 20(2), 93-108.
  • 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 and 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.; and Morales, A. 2010. IPA Illustration of Q'anjob'al. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences: Illinois Working Papers 2010: 1-23. Peer reviewed.
  • 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.
  • Lichtman, K. 2009. Deutsche Sprache, Schwere Sprache: Germany's Immigrant Language Policy. Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 12, 1, 43-67.


Karen Lichtman
Associate Professor
Office: WH 112
P: 815-753-6443


Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Linguistics
M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Linguistics
B.A., Williams College, Spanish and Psychology

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World Languages and Cultures
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