Ph.D. Student Yu-Tzu Chang Receives NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Award

Ph.D. Student Yu-Tzu Chang receives the NSF (U.S. National Science Foundation) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award for her dissertation project titled “Aspect and Event Cognition in the Acquisition and Processing of a Second Language”.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


In everyday conversations, people often talk about things happening over time or in an instant. For example, one might say “John is building a house” for an event that happens over time” or “John is crossing the finish line” for an instantaneous event. Different languages express time in events differently. To talk about ongoing events in English, speakers use the same -ing form in “John is building a house” and “John is crossing the finish line”. In other languages, by contrast, different grammatical markers indicate whether an ongoing event happens over time or instantly. Such differences in how time in events is expressed can be tricky for English speakers learning such languages. This doctoral dissertation project examines difficulties that native English speakers may have when learning how to express time in events in a second language that encodes such differences in the grammar. The study focuses on two things: how the grammar and meanings of such grammatical markers express time in events, and how use of these markers connects to real-world situations. In addition to the training of a graduate student, this research is expected to be beneficial to second-language teachers and inform textbooks. The project provides insights into the challenges speakers face in learning and using different grammatical markers.

Three experimental studies investigate knowledge, production, and comprehension of grammatical aspect markers. Study 1 explores whether second language learners know the ways that an aspect-marking language expresses time in events by having them judge the naturalness of sentences with time-in-event markers. Study 2 looks at how these same participants express time in events by having them continue the beginning of written sentences that include a variety of such markers. Study 3 examines how these same learners link spoken sentences containing time-in-event markers to pictures representing events in the world. By comparing results from these studies, the study sheds light on what makes such grammatical markers challenging to learn and use for second language speakers.


Awesome work. Congratulations, Yu-Tzu!