Department Research Projects

Current Research Projects

The Montclair State Linguistics Department faculty are all actively engaged in research. Funded research currently supports four undergraduate students and five graduate students. Most of the research projects also provide valuable opportunities for hands-on work in applied linguistics.

The specific projects include:

An Arabic Interlanguage Database and its Application (ARIDA)

We are building an electronic collection (corpus) of written learner productions which will become the basis for studying the acquisition of Arabic as a second/foreign language and for developing new instructional and testing materials. The corpus will be annotated for several linguistic features like part-of-speech as well as for error. Additionally, we are developing software for corpus searching to facilitate SLA research and to provide capabilities for generating instructional materials targeted to a particular teaching methodology, linguistic skill, learner language level, or learning style.
Eileen Fitzpatrick (
Ghazi  Abuhakema (
Anna Feldman  (

Contrastive Academic Cultures
A contrastive examination of differences that may exist in academic cultures. Data are collected during interviews with international students and with Montclair State professors and analyzed with the goal of creating materials that will help international students integrate more smoothly into Montclair's academic community.
Contact: Mary Call (

Corpus use in language arts teaching
Examination of the use of language corpora in the teaching of English grammar.
Contact: Susana Sotillo (

Deception detection
Development of a novel approach for the application of natural language processing and prosodic analysis to the recognition of deceptive statements. Joint work with Deception Detection Technologies. Funded.
Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick  (

Gender studies terminology
The term gender is increasingly replacing the word sex in public discourse (and in the media); in theory this is not the case in sociolinguistics and language and gender research but a preliminary analysis suggests that in practice, a similar phenomenon is occurring. This project involves a thorough investigation of the use of these terms.
Contact: Alice Freed (

Linguistics Self-Study

The project collects English text written by English as a Second Language (ESL) students. It stores the text online, collects data on the student writers that is relevant to their second language skills, annotates the text to permit retrieval of usage information and analysis of errors.
Contact: Eileen Fitzpatrick (

Portable Language Technology
The focus of this research is on the portability of technology to new languages and on rapid language technology development. This research takes a novel approach to rapid, low-cost development of taggers by exploring the possibility of taking existing resources for one language and applying them to another, related language. Languages that are either related by common heritage (e.g., Czech and Russian) or by "contact" (e.g., Bulgarian and Greek) often share a number of exploitable properties: morphological systems, word order, and vocabulary.
Contact: Anna Feldman (  Funded

Questions in Institutional Discourse
The research investigates the use of questions in institutional discourse (and in other sorts of fixed or partially scripted discourse) the role that questioning plays in (a.) constituting the institutional context itself and (b.) constructing and/or co-constructing participant roles and identities for speakers in these contexts.
      A book related to the research is currently under contract with Oxford University Press. Entitled “Why Do You Ask?: The Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse”, it is being co-edited with Susan Ehrlich, Ph.D., Professor of Linguistics at York University. Toronto.
Contact: Alice Freed   (

Sentence processing
We are conducting on-line sentence processing experiments to investigate the role of various properties of verbs on sentence comprehension. We are particularly interested in the roles of transitivity and telicity, and our experiments are intended to determine the point in the comprehension of a sentence at which verb properties come into play -- whether at the moment that the verb is encountered or at a later point when a syntactic or semantic structure is assigned to a phrase or sentence. The broader significance of this research is that it attempts to determine which properties of sentences are based on the lexical characteristics of individual words, and which are the result of a higher level of syntactic and semantic processing.
Contact: Mary Call (

WebCam Language Tutoring
This project collected second language learners' written and spoken language obtained via Yahoo Instant Messenger. Both chat transcripts and spoken data will be analyzed in order to determine whether students have opportunities to develop their second language grammar and lexicon with the help of native speakers of English or advanced learners of English. Textual data is stored online and will be analyzed using MonConc. The audiotaped data is being transcribed and saved as plain text in order to be processed and analyzed.  We expect to identify and tag specific types of learner errors.
Contact: Susana Sotillo (

Recently Completed Research

Arabic-English medical lexicon
Construction of an Arabic-English medical lexicon for use in a machine translation system. The project has developed an ontology of terms necessary for doctor-patient interaction and is providing several thousand terms in both languages for MT. Funded.

Speech segmentation
Phonetic segmentation of speech and annotation of prosodic features. Funded.