PhD in SLS Program

The PhD program in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i was established in 1989. The graduate faculty of the PhD program comprises all members of the SLS faculty, several faculty members of the Departments of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Linguistics, and cooperating and affiliate faculty members from other related departments.

The goal of the program is to promote significant doctoral-level research into major areas of SLS — analysis, learning, use and education. 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, language 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 Education: 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 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.