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Paola E. (Giuli) Dussias

Paola E. (Giuli) Dussias
Head, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
Principal Investigator at Penn State
Professor of Spanish, Linguistics and Psychology
Paola E. (Giuli) Dussias


I am currently an Associate Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at Penn State University, with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Psychology. I completed my doctoral studies in the interdisciplinary program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, with a specialization in Linguistic Analysis and a minor concentration in Second Language Processing. I then held a faculty position at the University of Illinois for four years (1996-2000), where I was a primary collaborator in pioneering a computer-enhanced Spanish language instruction curriculum consisting of mixed classroom and computer-assisted instruction. Prior to assuming my current position at Penn State, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi (2000-2001), where I was hired to implement the model for the Spanish language curriculum developed at Illinois.

My research program takes a cross-disciplinary approach to bilingual language processing using converging methodological tools from linguistics, experimental psycholinguistics, and second language acquisition. I conduct experiments, using a range of behavioral methods (e.g., reaction time measures and eye tracking methodology), to examine the way in which bilingual readers and speakers negotiate the presence of two languages in a single mind. The primary focus of my research concerns bilingual syntactic processing. The central question investigated in my lab is whether language-specific information is largely kept independent when bilinguals compute or parse an initial syntactic structure for the sentences they read or hear, or whether information from one language influences parsing decisions in the other language. The purpose of this endeavor is to inform current debates about the nature of human sentence processing. These debates center on the issue of whether the sentence processing mechanism is guided by universal strategies applicable to all languages or whether processing decisions are guided by language-specific information, as suggested by experience- or constraint-based models of language comprehension. Findings from our lab lend overwhelming support to experience-accounts of sentence parsing.

Because of my interest in cognitive aspects of bilingualism and in language contact phenomena, I have also conducted a series of studies on Spanish-English codeswitching. Proficient bilinguals often codeswitch in the midst of speaking with other bilinguals and the linguistic principles that govern the observed switches have been a focus of debate. Although codeswitching performance has been analyzed primarily from the perspective of the bilingual speaker, there are critical consequences for comprehension because unlike production, which is under the control of the speaker, the occurrences of a code-switch during the comprehension of mixed language may be unpredictable. Drawing from methods normally used in psycholinguistics, we have begun to study reading and spoken-language comprehension when bilinguals process mixed language.

Recent Publications:

  • Dussias, P. E. (2010). Uses of eyetracking data in second language sentence processing research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30,149 -166.
  • Kroll, J. F., Gerfen, C., & Dussias, P. E. (2008). Laboratory designs and paradigms in psycholinguistics. In L. Wei and M. Moyer (Eds.), The Blackwell guide to research methods in bilingualism (pp.108-131) Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Dussias, P. E. (2003). Cognitive approaches to the study of Spanish second language acquisition. In B.A. Lafford & R. Salaberry (Eds.), Studies in Spanish Second Language Acquisition: the State of the Science (pp. 233-261). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.
  • Dussias, P. E. (2002). On the relationship between comprehension and production data in codeswitching. In C. Wiltshire and J. Camps (Eds.), Romance Phonology and Variation(pp. 27-39). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Dussias, P. E. (2001).Sentence Parsing in fluent Spanish-English bilinguals. In J. Nicol (Ed.), One Mind, Two languages: Bilingual Language Processing (pp.159-176). Cambridge: Blackwell.