Rex Sprouse

Rex Sprouse

Professor, Second Language Studies

Adjunct Professor, Linguistics

Adjunct Professor, Germanic Studies


  • Ph.D., Princeton University

Research interests

The primary goal of Professor Sprouse's research is to gain a better understanding of the adult nonnative 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? Professor Sprouse is 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. He is 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. In current work, Professor Sprouse, together with his students in the Comparative and Diachronic Syntax Lab at IU and with his long-time collaborator Prof. Bonnie D. Schwartz, are considering the role of previously acquired grammars in the acquisition of third or additional languages. Professor Sprouse is 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.

An additional research topic for Professor Sprouse is the role on multilingualism in morpho-syntactic change.

Professional Experience

  • Indiana University, 1994 to present
  • Harvard University, 1988 to 1994
  • Eastern Oregon State College, 1986 to 1988
  • Bucknell University, 1985 to 1986

Representative publications

Emergent knowledge of a universal phonological principle in the L2 acquisition of vowel harmony in Turkish: A ‘four’-fold poverty of the stimulus in L2 acquisition (2017)
Second Language Research, 33 179-206

Universal Grammar and second language acquisition. In The Oxford handbook of Universal Grammar, ed. by Ian Roberts (2017)
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 289-304

Generative approaches and the poverty of the stimulus (2013)
Bonnie Schwartz and Rex Sprouse
Cambridge University Press. 137-158

Direct mapping of acoustics to phonology: On the lexical encoding of front round vowels in L1 English-L2 French acquisition (2012)
Isabelle Darcy, Laurent Dekydtspotter, Justin Glover, Christiane Kaden and Michael McGuire
Second Language Research, 28 5-4

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

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

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