Tania Leal

Tania Leal

Assistant Professor, World Languages and Literatures She/Her


Languages: English and Spanish.

I was born in México City, where I spent my early years before moving to the state of Puebla (also central México). Although my first love was music (I completed a B.A. in Music Performance and Music History at the University of Southern Mississippi), I was always interested in language. My enthusiasm for the study of language started at an early age, when I attended a bilingual immersion school in México City. Eventually, I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa on Second Language Acquisition with a Specialization in Linguistics. I also worked as a postdoctoral research scholar at Indiana University, where I investigated the acquisition and processing of (sociolinguistically) variable structures in Spanish. Because of my interest in language acquisition, I am very intrigued by all contact language phenomena and in Spanish as spoken in the U.S.

I am a linguist who specializes on the acquisition of languages. I am especially interested in second language acquisition (how we learn languages beyond our first) but also in the acquisition of heritage languages, especially of Spanish in the context of the U.S. Most of the research work I do is experimental; although I base my research and hypotheses on specific linguistic theories, I attempt to answer my questions with empirical data based on the outcomes of behavioral and psycholinguistic experiments. Within linguistics, I specialize on the domains known as syntax, morphology and pragmatics. My research centers on the acquisition and comprehension of syntax and morphology and is purposefully interdisciplinary, incorporating elements from theoretical and applied linguistics as well as from psycholinguistics. I have strong interests in language comprehension as it happens in real time (language processing) as well as in advancing our understanding and characterization of the underlying linguistic knowledge of speakers, be it of a first, second, or heritage language. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of my research, I am also keenly interested in the current methodological and epistemological issues that have arisen in the field as a by-product of conducting research that integrates different approaches. My research has appeared in journals such as Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Lingua, Applied Linguistics, The International Journal of Bilingualism, Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, and Language Teaching Research, among others.