Research

I am an applied linguist whose research encompasses two main areas: second language acquisition (SLA) and Hispanic Linguistics. These two areas are compatible and mutually reinforce one another in my scholarship. I have published on the acquisition of argument structure alternations, word classes, and differential object marking. My research is clearly aligned with a usage-based approach; I have argued that the acquisition of syntax is driven by one’s familiarity with particular lexical items and rote-learned sequences. Nevertheless, I am deeply interested in promoting a theoretical dialogue that provides for fruitful comparisons between different approaches to SLA. For example, in Zyzik (2009) I analyze the role of input in generative and usage-based approaches, and I recently published a paper on how each theory addresses issues related to null subjects in Spanish (Zyzik, 2017).

Although the bulk of my research involves adult second language (L2) learners, I have always had a strong interest in bilingualism, and more specifically, the profile of heritage speakers of Spanish (i.e., individuals who grew up speaking Spanish at home but whose schooling has been primarily in English). Heritage speakers are a unique and diverse group: in some areas, they diverge from monolingual native speakers of Spanish, and yet they are very different from L2 learners. My contribution to this debate has been a prototype model of the heritage speaker (Zyzik, 2016). I am currently analyzing data from a large-scale study on Spanish derivational morphology that compares several groups of heritage speakers.