David  Stringer

David Stringer

Associate Professor, Second Language Studies

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Second Language Studies


  • Ph.D., Linguistics, University of Durham, UK, 2005
  • M.A., Language Acquisition, University of Durham, UK, 1998
  • B.A., Hispanic Studies, University of Manchester, UK, 1991

About David Stringer

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. I completed my undergraduate degree in Hispanic Studies at the University of Manchester, specializing in Latin American literature. During this time, I spent a year studying anthropology at the University of Quindío, Colombia, and at PUC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I then taught English as a Foreign Language in Valencia, Spain; Verona, Italy; and Nara, Japan, before pursuing graduate studies in linguistics at the University of Durham. I returned to Japan for another four years to teach linguistics and English language at Mie University. I joined the Department of Second Language Studies at Indiana University in 2006 and was promoted to tenure in 2012.

Research interests

My main research areas are language acquisition, bilingualism, and environmental linguistics. Theoretical work in second language acquisition sheds light on the nature of the human language faculty and also relates directly to language pedagogy. In my work on lexical semantics and syntax across languages, I am interested in universal aspects of word meaning that play a role in grammar, as well as facets of language that shed light on particular cultures and environments.

My recent work on language hotspots and biodiversity examines how ecological knowledge is encoded in endangered languages, in the context of the current global mass extinction of languages and species. In particular, this interdisciplinary work – subsuming research on language acquisition, language attrition, ethnobiology, biocultural diversity conservation, and the natural sciences – seeks to link language revitalization in Indigenous societies to the conservation of ecosystems.

For more about the relationships between Indigenous languages and environmental knowledge, see:
Panel on Language, Knowledge and the Environment: Implications for Biocultural Conservation, with Luisa Maffi, David Stringer, and Marianne Ignace (org. Francisca Saavedra, mod. Robert Buschbacher). Tropical Conservation and Development Program, University of Florida, April 19, 2024.
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB3nTuUh2ac
[My talk 30:40 – 56:25; Q&A: 1:25 – 1:59:30]

My interests extend to all formal aspects of second language acquisition and multilingualism, and I enjoy working with students on a wide range of projects.

Community outreach

As an extension of my course Language Hotspots and Biodiversity, I have initiated an outreach program in local elementary schools. The course examines how ecological knowledge is encoded in endangered languages, with a focus on tropical ecoregions with high linguistic diversity (the Amazon, the Congo, New Guinea). The child-friendly slideshow aims to encourage a sense of wonder at the linguistic and biological diversity of life on earth and to raise awareness of efforts to create sustainable systems of development.

Read more about the project here: Helping Fifth-graders Understand the Relationship Between Saving Rainforests and Language

I have curated several events at Indiana University Bloomington related to biocultural diversity:

Fall 2017, film series at IU Cinema: Biocultural Diversity: A Film Journey
Fall, 2021, Webinar: Indigenous Resilience and Regeneration: Beyond the Global Pandemic
Fall, 2021, film series at IU Cinema: Islands of Resilience, and panel discussion

Experimental materials

I enjoy the creative aspects of experimental design. Here are four examples of audiovisual materials used to elicit production data as well as judgment data in studies of the linguistic realization of motion events. They were all designed for use with young children as well as adults. These materials may be copied or adapted with appropriate citations.

Aladdin Animation: These animated slides were originally used with linguistic stimuli in embedded sound files. The linguistic stimuli have been removed so as to make the default presentation easier to adapt. See supplementary notes. Original article (with no images reproduced): Stringer, D. Burghardt, B., Seo, H.K., and Wang, Y-T. (2011). Straight on through to Universal Grammar: Spatial modifiers in second language acquisition. Second Language Research 27 (3): 289-311.

Dr. Doodle and Charlie: These figures were created to elicit descriptions involving the expression of Manner and Change of State in locative motion events. Original source of images: Stringer, D. (2012). The lexical interface in L1 acquisition: What children have to say about radical concept nativism. First Language, 32(1-2): 116-136.

Toto the Robot: This figure was created so that children could give grammaticality judgments by interacting with a puppet rather than talking directly to an experimenter. Original source for description (with no images reproduced): Stringer, D. (2005). Paths in First Language Acquisition: Motion through Space in English, French and Japanese. Doctoral dissertation, University of Durham.

Monkey Book: These pictorial stimuli are monochrome sketch versions of colour originals in an A4-size book (lamination made direct scanning impossible). Each stimulus page represents both Manner and Path. Original source of images: Stringer, D. (2005). Paths in First Language Acquisition: Motion through Space in English, French and Japanese. Doctoral dissertation, University of Durham.