Interdisciplinary Language Acquisition Program

About LAP

This unique interdisciplinary program option focuses on the scientific exploration of language acquisition by different kinds of learners in diverse contexts. Students in the Language Acquisition Program (LAP) option are introduced to theoretical and methodological issues on language acquisition from the perspectives of cognitive neuroscience, theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, education, communication sciences and disorders, and neuropsychology.

Participating Departments


School of Communication Sciences & Disorders

Meghan Clayards

My research explores phonetic variability and individual differences in speech perception and production as well as plasticity and learning in both L1 adult listeners and second language learners of a variety of ages. I use primarily behavioural methods including eye-tracking.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | meghan.clayards [at]

Laura Gonnerman

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | laura.gonnerman [at]

Aparna Nadig

My research focuses on interfaces between language development or use, on the one hand, and social interaction or cognition, on the other, in both the neurotypical population and people on the autism spectrum. One recent theme has been to understand the massive variability in language development in autism by studying both the language environment (nurture) and learning mechanisms available to the child (nature).

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | aparna.nadig [at]

Linda Polka

Research in the Polka lab focuses on the development of speech perception during infancy. The goal of this work is to understand the skills and biases that the infants bring to this task and how their speech processing changes with age and language experience to support language processing.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | linda.polka [at]

Susan Rvachew

My research is concerned with the development of speech production, speech perception and phonological skills and the treatment of speech sound disorders and delayed acquisition of emergent literacy. These investigations primarily involve infants and preschool aged children who may be learning one or more language. We also develop software tools for clinical applications in my lab.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | susan.rvachew [at]

Karsten Steinhauer

My research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of language and uses primarily the technique of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to study both first and second language acquisition.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | karsten.steinhauer [at]

Elin Thordardottir

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | elin.thordardottir [at]

Department of Educational Counselling & Psychology

Gigi Luk

My research program examines how bilingualism shapes cognitive development and learning in children and adults. Using behavioral and neuroimaging methods, I approach this research program considering bilingualism as an interactional experience between an individual and her social environment. In addition to investigating the science of bilingualism, I have extended my scientific findings on bilingualism to improve educational experience for children from diverse language backgrounds.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | gigi.luk [at] 

Department of Linguistics

Meghan Clayards

My research explores phonetic variability and individual differences in speech perception and production as well as plasticity and learning in both L1 adult listeners and second language learners of a variety of ages. I use primarily behavioural methods including eye-tracking.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | meghan.clayards [at]

Heather Goad

My research investigates the first and second language acquisition of phonology. I examine how linguistic theory informs the developmental trajectories that learners follow and the shapes of their end-state grammars. I typically focus on patterns of behaviour that are seemingly unexpected, given the type of input to which learners are exposed.

Web | Personal Website
Contact | heather.goad [at]

Department of Psychology

Kristine H. Onishi

How do we become competent language users, learning the relevant sound and 
conceptual structures and mapping between the two? We have examined (1) 
learning of sound structures, e.g., that (for English) "fing" is a more 
likely word than "ngif"?; and (2) conceptual structures useful for 
language learning, e.g., whether infants understand that others' 
behaviours are based on goals and beliefs.

Web | MIDC Lab
Contact | kris.onishi [at]

Debra Titone

My lab conducts behavioral (e.g., eye-tracking) and, less frequently, neuroimaging (e.g., ERP, MRI) experiments to investigate questions pertinent to language acquisition, which include: (1) How do individual differences in language acquisition history, executive function, and other capacities, constrain first and second language processing? (2) How do neurodevelopmental conditions (schizophrenia, dyslexia) affect language processing?

Web | Language & Multilingualism Lab 
Contact | debra.titone [at]

Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Susan Ballinger

My research primarily investigates language learning and pedagogy in content-based instructional settings. Specific interests include cross-linguistic instructional approaches, classroom discourse, peer collaboration, and the impact of societal and classroom environments on students’ success and well-being.

Web | ResearchGate Profile | McGill Profile
Contact | susan.ballinger [at]

Angelica Galante

My research interests are rooted in social justice, linguistically and culturally inclusive education and critical sociolinguistics. My work often takes place in language classrooms and in contexts of superdiversity. Some of the research topics I am interested in are: effects of plurilingual and translingual approaches on language learning; plurilingual and pluricultural competence (PPC); identity and language learning; drama/theatre in language learning; and mixed methods research.

Web | Personal Website | Plurilingual Lab
Contact | angelica.galante [at]

Mela Sarkar

My research focuses on the empowerment of linguistically marginalized populations, specifically immigrant-origin youth and Canadian Indigenous communities, through language acquisition and education, within a critical paradigm.

Web | BILD Profile
Contact | mela.sarkar [at]

Professors Emeriti

Fred Genesee

My research interests include the effectiveness of alternative forms of bilingual and immersion education for both majority and minority language students; language acquisition in pre-school children who are learning two languages simultaneously; language development in internationally-adopted children; and the language and academic development of children at-risk for language or reading impairment and other developmental disorders.

Web | Personal Website
Contact | fred.genesee [at]

Roy Lyster

Roy Lyster is Professor Emeritus of Second Language Education at McGill University. His research examines content-based second language instruction and the effects of instructional interventions designed to counterbalance form-focused and content-based approaches. His research interests also include professional development and collaboration among teachers for the purpose of integrated language learning and biliteracy development.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | roy.lyster [at]

Yuriko Oshima-Takane

My research investigates what kinds of information (syntactic, semantic, or/and pragmatic) children use when learning new words and sentence structures. More recent research investigates how English-Japanese bilinguals acquire two distinct verb argument structures and whether there are any cross-linguistic influences from one language to the other using eye-tracking measures as well as EEG measures.

Web | McGill Profile
Contact | yuriko.oshima-takane [at]

Lydia White

My research centres on the unconscious linguistic competence acquired by second language (L2) learners. I investigate the relationship between different modules of the L2 grammar, such as syntax, morphology and phonology. Using experimental methods, I seek to determine the effects of universal principles and the L1 grammar on L2 mental representations and L2 processing.

Web | Personal Website
Contact | lydia.white [at]


Susan Ballinger, LAP Director
Representative for Second Language Studies
susan.ballinger [at]

Kristine Onishi
Representative for Psychology
kris.onishi [at]

Heather Goad
Representative for Linguistics
heather.goad [at]

Linda Polka
Representative for Communication Sciences & Disorders
linda.polka [at]



Students in the PhD program in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Linguistics, Psychology, or Integrated Studies in Education, who intend to specialize in language acquisition are eligible to apply. 

The application includes:

  1. A brief (one-page) research proposal or statement of interest in language acquisition including the name of the student's home department and thesis supervisor
  2. A list of those courses from the program requirements that the applicant has previously completed, if applicable.

Applications should be submitted to the Director of the program prior to September of the academic year in which a student intends to start the program.

Program Requirements

Students must meet the degree requirements of the department in which they are registered (including requirements for courses, Ph.D. comprehensives, thesis proposals, internships, thesis, etc.). Students are referred to the websites of their intended home departments for details:

Activities specific to the Language Acquisition option include a core set of courses:

  1. Three interdisciplinary seminars (2 credits each), selected from the list below.
  2. One intermediate or advanced graduate level statistics course (3 credits). Students who have already taken an equivalent statistics course may be exempted from this requirement.
  3. Students must take at least one (3-credit) graduate level course in language acquisition at McGill or at another university in Montreal (with permission of the Director of LAP). These courses can also be used in fulfillment of the PhD program requirements of the student's home department.

Interdisciplinary Seminars on Language Acquisition

The theme of each course will be determined on a year-by-year basis by the participating departments.

Department Seminars
PSYC 709 Language Acquisition Issues 1 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

LING 710 Language Acquisition Issues 2 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Integrated Studies in Education
EDSL 711 Language Acquisition Issues 3 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Communication Sciences & Disorders
SCSD 712 Language Acquisition Issues 4 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Educational & Counselling Psychology
EDPE 713 Language Acquisition Issues 5 2 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Student Resources

Financial Support

Students should consult the website of the relevant department concerning financial support:

Information concerning financial support is also available from the McGill Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research website.

International Students

International students are referred to the Future Graduate Students page and the International Student Services (ISS) website for information concerning visas, health insurance, housing, and other useful information.

Student Housing

Refer to the McGill Student Housing website for information about off-campus housing in Montréal.

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