PhD in SLS

The PhD program in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i was established in 1988. The graduate faculty of the PhD program comprises all members of the SLS faculty, as well as faculty members of the Departments of Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Literatures, and Linguistics.

The goal of the program is to promote significant doctoral-level research into major areas of SLS — analysis, learning, use and pedagogy. We need to know more about how second languages are learned, how they should be taught, and what psychological and sociological factors influence their acquisition. We need a better understanding of language styles, dialect variation, and a host of other areas. Knowledge in this field has a significant impact on such matters as proficiency assessment, program organization, teaching methodologies, legal and social policy issues concerning language, and our understanding of the nature of language.

1. Content-Knowledge Mastery. The courses in the program are organized into four areas of specialization, of which students concentrate on three as appropriate to their academic goals. Each PhD graduate will develop and exhibit mastery of the knowledge bases in three of these four broad areas of Second Language Studies:

a. Second Language Analysis: structural analysis of learners’ language development; comparison of native and nonnative languages; second language varieties; differences arising from social and geographical contexts; phonological, grammatical, and discoursal properties; typological factors; putative universals.

b. Second Language Learning: studies of biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors in the language learning process; role of universals; interlanguage; processes of comprehension and production.

c. Second Language Use: studies of social functions of second and foreign languages; pidgins, creoles, and dialect variation; roles of social and geographical contexts; cross-cultural and interethnic communication; sociopolitical factors; language policy and planning.

d. Second Language Pedagogy: research into learners’ language needs (including immigrant needs); formulation of needs-based curriculum objectives and syllabi; task-based and content-based language teaching; computer-aided instruction; program administration; evaluation and language assessment; critical pedagogy.

2. Research Methods. In addition to these areas of content-knowledge mastery, expertise in research methodology in is emphasized in the program. Our PhD graduates will be able to utilize appropriate research methods for their own empirical work, and they will help other researchers to understand and improve upon their research methods (e.g., through scholarly review and/or teaching activities).

3. Professional engagement and excellence in areas of expertise. Our graduates will demonstrate a commitment to professional engagement and will be recognized for excellence in their selected areas of Second Language Studies.


Students work closely with their advisers and doctoral committees in defining their individualized programs. In order to establish a common core of expertise among students, specific courses will be designated according to the background of each student. The basic preparation expected as part of their MA training is at least one graduate-level course in each of the four areas of specialization. Doctoral candidates will be evaluated by their advisors concerning their basic preparation at the master’s level. If any area is not sufficient, additional coursework may be required.

Beyond basic preparation, each doctoral student’s program must include a minimum of two graduate-level courses in each of three of the subfields of specialization, and two graduate-level courses in research methods (totaling 24 credits). At least two courses must be at the 700 level. The University residency requirement is three semesters of full-time study or the equivalent in credits at the University of Hawai‘i. The program cannot be completed long-distance. Typical completion time is four years.

All courses taken to fulfill program requirements must be taken for credit (not audited) and must be taken for a letter grade unless the only grading option available is CR/NC (such as SLS699 and some other directed reading/research courses).

The following is a partial listing of course which are available in each of the four sub-fields of second language studies. These are listed to indicate the range of offerings at the University of Hawai‘i, and to guide students and their doctoral committees in designing plans of study. The courses listed do not constitute a closed list; other courses may be approved by students’ advisors or doctoral committees. In addition, it should be noted that the majority of the 600 and 700 level courses listed have prerequisites which students may be required to take in the appropriate departments.

Second Language Analysis

  • SLS 640 English syntax (basic preparation)
  • SLS 642 Comparative grammar & second language acquisition
  • SLS 680N Topics in SLS: Second language analysis
  • CHN 641, 642 Contrastive analysis of Mandarin & English
  • CHN 750C Research seminar in Chinese language: Structure
  • ENG 745 Seminar in English language
  • JPN 634 Advanced Japanese syntax & semantics
  • JPN 650C Topics in Japanese linguistics: Japanese/English contrastive analysis
  • LING 650, 651 Advanced linguistic analysis
  • LLEA 681(A) Topics in language

Second Language Learning

  • SLS 650 Second language acquisition (basic preparation)
  • SLS 673 Applied psycholinguistics & SLS
  • SLS 680E Topics in SLS: Second language learning
  • SLS 750 Seminar in second language acquisition
  • EDEP 768C Seminar in educational psychology: Learning
  • LING 616 Biological foundations of language
  • LING 670 Developmental linguistics
  • LING 750Q Seminar: Language acquisition
  • PSY 726 Seminar in cognitive science

Second Language Use

  • SLS 618 Language and Learning Technology
  • SLS 660 Sociolinguistics & second languages (basic preparation)
  • SLS 680U Topics in SLS: Second language use
  • SLS 760 Seminar in second language use
  • CHN 750E Research seminar in Chinese language: Sociolinguistics
  • JPN 633 Japanese sociolinguistics
  • LING 635 Language variation
  • LING 750S Seminar: Sociolinguistics

Second Language Pedagogy

  • SLS 613 Second language listening & speaking
  • SLS 614 Second language writing
  • SLS 620 Second language reading
  • SLS 630 Second language program development
  • SLS 671 Research in language testing
  • SLS 680P Topics in SLS: Second language pedagogy
  • SLS 610 Introduction to Teaching second languages (basic preparation)
  • SLS 730 Seminar in second language pedagogy
  • CHN 750B Research seminar in Chinese language: Teaching methods
  • EALL 60l Method of teaching East Asian languages
  • EDCS 641(A) Seminar in foreign language
  • EDCS 667(A) Seminar in curriculum
  • EDEF 669 Introduction to comparative/international education
  • EDEP 768G Seminar in educational psychology: Educational evaluation
  • ENG 680 Theory & practice of teaching composition
  • ENG 740 Seminar in composition studies
  • JPN 650P Topics in Japanese linguistics: Pedagogy

Courses in Research Methods

  • SLS 670 Second language research methods
  • SLS 672 Second language classroom research
  • SLS 674 Survey research method
  • SLS 675 Second language qualitative research
  • SLS 678 Discourse analysis in second language research
  • SLS 680R Topics in SLS: Second language research methodology
  • SLS 750 Seminar in second language acquisition: Distributed language and multimodal analysis
  • SLS 775 Seminar in second language qualitative research
  • EALL 603(A) Bibliographical & research methods
  • EDEP 602 Computer analysis of data
  • EDEP 604 Multiple regression in behavioral research
  • EDEP 768H Seminar in educational psychology: Research methodology
  • LING 630 Field methods
  • LLEA 630(V) Seminar in research methods


Substantial, diverse experience in language learning (as well as teaching and researching) is a critical element in the intellectual and personal development of SLS specialists pursuing a doctoral degree. Such experience, reflected upon, is a crucial supplement to the scholarly knowledge obtained through a PhD in SLS.

Accordingly, we require doctoral students to document and reflect on substantial, diverse learning experience in two languages other than their native/first language. This requirement is fulfilled by submitting a 3-to-5-page reflective essay to the student’s advisor any time during the first two years of study and before advancement to candidacy. In the 3-to-5-page essay, the SLS doctoral candidates should reflect on their learning of two languages and give an account of it which is informed by relevant academic theory/literature. Supporting documentation can be appended to the essay, if relevant. Fulfillment of the language learning experience requirement must be approved by the student’s advisor.

We define substantial, diverse experience of language learning as the learning of any concurrent, second, heritage, and/or foreign language under any context and with a range of outcomes and degrees of success. Examples of substantial and diverse language learning experience are:

  • Attaining L2 competence for functioning successfully in an L2 academic context (as, for example, international students achieving a language proficiency score sufficient for admission to graduate studies in English-speaking institutions)
  • Completing a primary, secondary, or higher education degree in a language other than the mother tongue/first language (as, for example, many English Language Learners and 1.5 generation students do in schools in the United States; and as many students do in countries which have more than one official language, such as Canada, or in countries where the medium of instruction can be a language different from the mother tongue, such as India or South Africa)
  • Attaining some degree of competence in an L2 through formal instruction (as, for example, many students do when they take a foreign language in school or university)
  • Attaining some degree of competence in an L2 through prolonged exposure in naturalistic contexts (for example, as the result of elective or circumstantial life events such as studying, working, or living abroad for extended periods, intercultural marriage, immigration, and so on)
  • Growing up with two or more languages (as may be the case of heritage language users who have developed comprehension and/or production grammars in the ancestors’ language; or as is the case in bilingual and multilingual contexts such as Catalonia, Hawai‘i, or Switzerland)
  • Teaching a language (or in a language) other than the mother tongue/first language (as is the case for non-native speaking language teachers)
  • Engaging in research that involves the analysis of data in another language (by choice for any SLS course; or to fulfill the requirements of a language typology or contrastive language course, such as SLS 642 or LING 750G)

The outcomes and success for each of the two languages learned can vary, and may include learning, forgetting, and/or re-learning a language or fossilizing or attriting in a language (as well as attaining advanced degrees of competence in a language).


Following successful completion of the required course work during residency, a comprehensive examination is prepared before the dissertation proposal. The comprehensive examination, taken only with the consent of the appointed doctoral committee, is based on three of the following: second language analysis, learning, use, pedagogy, and research methods. Approximately one semester prior to the tentative date of the examination, the student must submit to the committee chair an indication of the areas to be covered and specify the topic within each of the three areas, including a list of references. The committee must approve any description and may require modifications.

The examination consists of a written and an oral part:

  1. Written: For the written portion of the comprehensive exam, the candidate is given two weeks to answer three questions based on the specified topics approved by the committee. The two-week duration is strictly enforced. Answers for each question will usually be from 15 to 30 pages in length. The committee then takes two weeks to evaluate the candidate’s answers.
  2. Oral: The committee convenes with the candidate for the oral portion of the examination. Here, the examinee clarifies and amplifies topics addressed in the written portion.

A student who does not pass the comprehensive examination may take it only once more (see UHM Office of Graduate Education Degree Requirements).


After completion of all course requirements, language requirements, and the comprehensive examination, students must develop and successfully defend a dissertation proposal and prospectus in two stages. The defense will be in the presence of their doctoral committee.

The dissertation proposal is a requirement of the Graduate Division and must be approved at an oral defense attended by all members of the dissertation committee. The dissertation proposal should include the following:

1. A clear statement of the topic of the dissertation

2. A clear statement of the research questions to be addressed in the dissertation

3. A clear statement of the research methodology to be used in answering the research questions

4. Approval from the UH Institutional Review Board to conduct any research involving human subjects

5. A proposed timeline for completion of the dissertation

It is expected that the proposal will be from 5 to 10 pages in length (APA format). After it is successfully defended and approved by the entire dissertation committee, a copy must be submitted to the department office and placed in the candidate’s file. With the approval of the dissertation committee, the proposal may be defended at the time of the comprehensive examination defense. When the proposal is approved, Form II: Advancement to Candidacy will be submitted to the Graduate Division and students may register for dissertation research (SLA 800) during the next registration period.

The dissertation prospectus fulfills the function of the traditional dissertation proposal. The dissertation prospectus must contain a detailed discussion of the relevant literature, the research questions, and research methods. It will contain a detailed description of any pilot results and of any experiments or treatments to be used in the dissertation study. The dissertation prospectus will generally be 30 to 50 pages in length (double spaced, APA format). The prospectus must be approved at an oral defense attended by all members of the dissertation committee. After the prospectus is orally defended a copy (with the committee chair’s signature on the first page) must be submitted to the department office and placed in the candidate’s file.

Combining the dissertation proposal and dissertation prospectus. A candidate may, with dissertation committee approval, opt to bypass the dissertation proposal process and submit a dissertation prospectus that meets the requirements of both documents. In this event, the Graduate Division will be informed that the University dissertation proposal requirement has been met.

The dissertation itself is expected to be a scholarly presentation, based on independent research, of an original contribution to knowledge in the field of second language studies. The final examination in defense of the dissertation may cover related subjects as well as the content of the dissertation. The final oral defense of the dissertation is open to the public.


In addition to the various foreign language teaching programs administered by the language departments, the SLS Department administers the English Language Institute and the University of Hawai‘i English Language Program, which provide English instruction to nonnative-speaking students at the University. The foreign language classes, the ELI, and HELP are valuable research resources for second language studies, providing opportunities for employment and classroom observation. The Center for Second Language Research, partly funded by external grants, conducts research on learning, teaching and use of second and foreign languages in classrooms and the community. The College also has support from the National Foreign Language Resource Center, the longest established of fourteen federally-funded national centers. These centers are potential resources for doctoral students.

Hawaiian, Hawaiian Creole English (HCE), most of the major languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Basin are taught or researched at the University of Hawai‘i, in addition to French, German, Russian, Spanish, and other languages. The multicultural and multilingual heritage of Hawai‘i creates an exceptionally favorable environment for the study of languages, linguistics, language teaching. and other areas of applied linguistics. Hawai‘i has a variety of immigrant communities, especially from the Pacific and Asia. In addition, the Charlene J. Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole and Dialect Studies, housed within the Department of SLS, promotes and carries out research on HCE and other creoles, pidgin languages, and dialects.


Advanced Graduate Certificate in SLS
Students interested in the PhD in SLS program occasionally do not have sufficient training or background in the conduct of second language research. Such students maybe interested in the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Second Language Studies, a 15-credit, research-oriented program requiring a completed or nearly complete MA for admission.

Campus housing, except for East–West Center grantees, is very limited, so there is heavy demand for off-campus accommodation. There is currently no accommodation on campus for married students with children, for example. The Student Housing Office maintains files on such housing and assists students in locating suitable acccommodation after the student arrives. Because of rapid turnover, landlords’ names are not sent through the mail. Negotiations with landlord must be handled directly by the student. Inquiries concerning housing should be directed to the Student Housing Office, Johnson Hall A, 2555 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822.

New students are sent an information packet by the Graduate Division concerning registration dates and procedures—in the second half of August, or at the beginning of January. Both the University and the Department of SLS organize orientation meetings for all newly admitted students.

For additional information, contact:

Graduate Chair
Department of Second Language Studies
University of Hawai‘i

Department of Second Language Studies
1890 East–West Road
Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822

(808) 956-8610; FAX: (808) 956-2802; Email:

Pertinent information for graduate study is provided in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Catalog and the Department of SLS’s webpage at: Relevant university and departmental application forms are downloadable from:


The Graduate Faculty of Second Language Studies include the Graduate Faculty of the Department of SLS (indicated with a *), as well as faculty from several other departments:

Jacob M. Bilmes, PhD Anthropology, Stanford: Cognitive anthropology, human communication, decision-making, conversational analysis, Southeast Asia.

*Robert Bley-Vroman, PhD Linguistics, Washington: SL analysis, interlanguage syntax, & formal models of SL acquisition.

*J.D. Brown, PhD Applied Linguistics, UCLA: SL testing, research methods, curriculum design.

Haruko Cook, PhD Linguistics, USC: Japanese sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, language socialization & pragmatics.

*Graham Crookes, PhD Educational Psychology, Hawai‘i: Classroom teaching, action research, materials & syllabus design, philosophy of teaching, critical pedagogy.

*Kathryn Davis, PhD Education, Stanford: Qualitative research, language policy & planning, literacy, bilingual education.

*Richard R. Day, PhD Linguistics, Hawai‘i: SL pedagogy learning and teaching, materials adaptation and development, teacher development, reading.

*Betsy Gilliland, PhD Education, Davis: second language writing, adolescent literacy, qualitative research methods, SL pedagogy.

*Theres Grüter, PhD Linguistics, McGill: morphosyntax and semantics, developmental psycholinguistics, language processing, bilingualism.

*Christina Higgins, PhD English Language and Linguistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison: macro- and micro-sociolinguistics, qualitative research methods, conversational analysis, code-switching.

*Thom Hudson, PhD Applied Linguistics, UCLA: language testing, reading, methods & materials, ESP, research methods.

Kazue Kanno, PhD Linguistics, Hawai‘i: Japanese SLA, pedagogical grammar, language analysis.

*Gabriele Kasper, PhD Applied Linguistics, Bochum (Germany): Language and social interaction, L2 learning as social practice, qualitative research methods

William O’Grady, PhD Linguistics, Chicago: Syntax, first & second language acquisition, Korean.

*Luca Onnis, PhD: statistical learning, enhancement of learning and training based on cognitive science findings, computational modeling and corpus-based analyses, monolingual and bilingual sentence processing, language evolution.

Kenneth Rehg, PhD Linguistics, Hawai‘i: Phonology, bilingual education, Micronesian linguistics.

*Richard Schmidt, PhD Linguistics, Brown: SL learning, sociolinguistics & second languages, SL phonology, Arabic, Portuguese.

*Bonnie Schwartz, PhD Linguistics, Southern California: linguistic theory and SL acquisition and analysis, Universal Grammar, child second language acquisition.

*Dongping Zheng, PhD: cognition and instruction, second language technology and pedagogy, bilingual education, instructional media.

*Nicole Ziegler, PhD Linguistics, Georgetown: interactionist SLA.



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