Second Language Acquisition

(1) L2 Development of Syntactic Complexity (in collaboration with Dr. Jason Killam and Dr. Kimberly Geeslin)

Employs a functional analysis to observe how linguistic complexity develops in interlanguage Spanish. Results to date show that low level learners use complexity (e.g. subordinated clauses) that mirrors the clause structures used in native English. However, as proficiency increases, the use of adjectival, nominal and adverbial clauses changes both in frequency and type in a non-linear pattern towards the Spanish norm.

  • Killam, Jason and Stephen Fafulas. “An Exploration of the Acquisition of Complex Syntax in L2 Spanish.” Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT). Washington, D.C. March 14, 2014.

(2) L2 Acquisition of Simple Present and Present Progressive forms

Investigates the acquisition and variable use of simple present and present progressive verb forms by English-speaking learners of Spanish in the United States, as well as native speakers of Spanish from four dialect regions. This project is among the first to extend the analysis to ‘other’ types of progressive constructions (i.e. seguir, venir, ir, andar + V-ndo) which have received considerably less attention than the more frequent estar + V-ndo form.

  • Geeslin, Kimberly and Stephen Fafulas. “Progressive aspect marking in second language Spanish: Multiple dialects and variability in the input.” 33rd Second Language Research Forum (SLRF). Columbia, South Carolina. October 24, 2014.
  • Fafulas, Stephen. “Cross-linguistic, learner, and individual differences in the expression of progressive aspect.” 81st meeting of the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics (SECOL). North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. March 28, 2014.
  • Fafulas, Stephen. “Multifunctionality and Layering in First and Second Language Grammars: Acquisition and Use of Simple Present and Present Progressive forms in Spanish & English.” Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT). Washington, D.C. March 16, 2014.


  • Fafulas, Stephen. Progressive Constructions in Native-Speaker and Adult-Acquired Spanish. Accepted for publication in Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics.

(3) L2 Acquisition of Variable Structures (in collaboration with Dr. Kimberly Geeslin and Matthew Kanwit)

Investigates how L2 learners acquire the variation of linguistic forms that are conditioned by linguistic, social and interactional factors.


  • Geeslin, Kimberly, Stephen Fafulas, and Matthew Kanwit. 2013. Acquiring geographically-variable norms of use: The case of the present perfect in Mexico and Spain. In Selected Proceedings of the 15th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, (Eds.) Chad Howe, Sarah E. Blackwell, and Margaret Lubbers Quesada (pp. 205-220). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.