Indiana University Bloomington

Germanic Studies

Indiana University

Rex Sprouse

Professor of Germanic Studies and Second Language Studies

Ph.D. Princeton University


About Rex:

I arrived at Indiana University in 1994, after having taught at Bucknell University (1985-86), Eastern Oregon State College (1986-88), and Harvard University (1988-94). At IU I have taught primarily courses on the structure, history, and acquisition of the German language. I am a co-founding member of the new Department of Second Language Studies, where I teach a range of courses on second language acquisition.

Selected Recent Publications

Schwartz, Bonnie D. & Rex A. Sprouse (2013) Generative approaches and the poverty of the stimulus. In Julia Herschensohn & Martha Young-Scholten (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 137-158.

Darcy, Isabelle, Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, Justin Glover, Christiane Kaden, Michael McGuire & John H.G. Scott (2012) Direct mapping of acoustics to phonology: On the lexical encoding of front round vowels in L1 English-L2 French acquisition. Second Language Research 28: 5-40.

Sprouse, Rex A. (2011) The Interface Hypothesis and Full Transfer/Full Access/Full Parse: A brief comparison. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 1: 97-100.

Sprouse, Rex A. (2010) The invisibility of SLA theory in mainstream creole linguistics. Second Language Research 26: 261-277.

Sprouse, Rex A. (2009) Creoles and interlanguages, conclusions and research desiderata: A reply to Plag. Langage, Interaction et Acquisition/Language, Interaction and Acquisition 1: 273-291.


The primary goal of my research is to gain a better understanding of the adult second language paradox: Why is that adults exposed to a nonnative language develop systems of linguistic knowledge of a startlingly rich and complex nature, including properties for which there is little or no evidence in the input (“poverty/bankruptcy of the stimulus”), while still (in a large percentage of cases) experiencing significant difficulty in the acquisition and use of relatively “simple” features of word choice and form? I am best known in second language studies for proposing (together with Bonnie D. Schwartz, University of Hawaii/) the Full Transfer/Full Access hypothesis and for pioneering (together with Laurent Dekydtspotter, Indiana University) research on the syntax-semantics interface in English-French interlanguage. I am currently developing the Deep Lexical Transfer Hypothesis, which a re-conceptualizes Full Transfer in terms of relexification/relabeling in the sense that Claire Lefebvre (Université du Québec à Montréal) has used these terms to describe creole genesis. I am also considering ways in which the Language Instinct becomes “blunted” over the course of the life span, even though the fundamental architecture of grammars and processing mechanisms remains untouched.

Additional topics that have captured my interest over the years include case and agreement in German and Icelandic, perfect auxiliary selection in Romance and Germanic, the comparative correlative construction in German, the syntax of ditransitive verbs in the Germanic languages, and the development of tag questions in Welsh.

Recent Courses

Contemporary Austria

Introduction to German Sociolinguistics

Introduction to the Germanic Languages

Introduction to the History of the German Language

Structure of Modern German

Last Words

I love teaching, and I hope that I can communicate something of my enthusiasm for languages, linguistics, language acquisition, and Western and Central European cultures to my students. I am strongly committed to involving graduate students and exceptionally talented undergraduates as co-authors in my research projects. I have served as Resident Director of Indiana University’s Summer Overseas Study Program in Graz, Austria ten times since 2002. I am a passionate advocate of overseas study and foreign language study.

Personal Interests

My personal interests include: spirituality and sexuality; Quaker history and theology; non-violence; human rights; social justice; cinema and avant-garde television; anthropology.

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