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New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals (CUNY-NYSIEB)

Principal Investigators: Professors Ricardo Otheguy, Ofelia García, and Kate Menken
Funder: New York State Education Department
Total:  $8,988,783 (2011-2019) 
Project Website:

The CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals (NYSIEB) worked to improve the education of emergent bilingual students across New York State. Emergent Bilinguals speak a language other than English (LOTE) as their home language and are learning English in school. This was a collaborative project of the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society (RISLUS) and the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education funded by the New York State Education Department from 2011 to 2019.

Project History 
At RISLUS, the CUNY-NYSIEB project was led by Principle Investigators Ricardo Otheguy, Ofelia García, and Kate Menken. The goal of the initiative was to build upon the accumulated experience of New York State educators in the instruction of emergent bilingual students in order to launch an innovative effort to improve the school experience and the academic success of these students. 

The project began to: (a) support schools that serve large numbers of emergent bilinguals (b) document and create a portfolio of successful educational policies, programs, and practices associated with emergent bilingual students in the state, and (c) to explore the development of New York State Home Language Arts (HLA) Standards that are aligned with the Next Generation Learning Standards, HLA being an important component in the education of emergent bilinguals. CUNY-NYSIEB worked with partner schools across New York State from 2011 to 2016. CUNY-NYSIEB finished through the 2019 school year with a focus on supporting and sustaining bilingual programs across New York State.


Hebrew-English Programs in New York City Public Schools

Principal Investigators: Professors Kate Menken​, Sharon Avni​
Funder: Spencer Foundation
Total: $49,992 (2016-18)

This study focused on three Hebrew dual language bilingual education (DLBE) programs in New York City, the first of which opened in 2010; two are elementary charter schools and one is a traditional public middle school. Using complementary qualitative methods, this comparative study investigated how Hebrew DLBE programs teach about and negotiate linguistic, ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. Its goal was to provide empirical evidence about the opportunities and challenges of DLBE programs and highlights how these programs inform broader conversations about bilingualism as a goal of and opportunity for public schooling. Dr. Kate Menken and Dr. Sharon Avni considered whether new DLBE programs in city schools today can hold true to the original social justice aims of bilingual education. 

The project entailed 16 months of classroom observations of a Hebrew-English dual language bilingual education program at a public intermediate school located in NY.

Menken, K.& Avni, S. (2017) Challenging linguistic purism in dual language bilingual education: A case study of Hebrew in a New York City public middle school. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 185-202.

Avni, S. & Menken, K. (2019). The expansion of dual language bilingual education into new communities and languages: The case of Hebrew in a New York City public middle school. Theory Into Practice, 58(2), 154-163.

Understanding the Student with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE): A Study of SIFE skills, needs and achievement

Principal Investigators: Professors Elaine Klein and Gita Martohardjono
Funder: New York City Department of Education, Office of English Language Learners
Total: $450,000 (2004-2008)
The Students with Interrupted and Inconsistent Formal Education (SIFE) Assessment Project began with the goal to help the New York City Department of Education better understand and serve their growing number of SIFE students. In the first phase (2005-06), researchers developed a base characterization of SIFE students and investigated how to assess them. Phase I found that the class content for SIFE were generally above the levels they could understand. In order to assist SIFE students, researchers concluded that instructors should support home language skills, with an emphasis on foundational literacy and basic reading skills. In Phase II (2006-08), the team evaluated students further and pilot-tested a new RISLUS-developed assessment, the Academic Language and Literacy Diagnostic (ALLD) in Spanish and English.

Researchers recommended that SIFE students be assessed in their home language in order to determine existing literacy abilities which are transferable to the second language, English. Intensive support in both the home language and English is needed in order for SIFE to be able  to access grade level academic content.

Klein, E., & Martohardjono, G. (2006). Understanding the student with interrupted formal education (SIFE): A study of SIFE skills, needs and achievement (Phase I). New York: New York City Department of Education.

Klein, E., & Martohardjono, G. (2009). Understanding the student with interrupted formal education (SIFE): A study of SIFE skills, needs and achievement (Phase II). New York: New York City Department of Education.

The Interaction of Language and Dialect Contact: Variable Statement of Spanish Subject Pronouns in Six Spanish Dialects in New York City

Principal Investigators: Professors Ricardo Otheguy and Ana Celia Zentella
Funder: National Science Foundation
Total: $535,000 (2001-2013)
This large sociolinguistic study produced 140 interviews with Spanish speakers from six different ethno-national groups in New York City and the research that sprouted from that collection. The 140 interviews were chosen as a subset of 300 interviews conducted between 2000 and 2005, stratified with consideration to gender, national origin, areal origin, age of arrival, years in New York City, social class, years of education, English skills, and amount of Spanish use.
Project History
Beginning as the ‘The Interaction of Language and Dialect Contact’ project, the project considered the variable expression of Spanish subject pronouns in the Spanish(es) in New York City. The initial data set of 300 interviews was completed from 2001-05 and the CUNY Project of Spanish in New York was formed. 
The CUNY Project of Spanish in New York studied whether and how the different varieties of Spanish spoken in NYC influence one another, and whether and how they are all influenced by English and may be converging into a NYC Spanish variety. The project has focused on the variable use of subject personal pronouns.
Otheguy, Ricardo, and Ana Celia Zentella. 2012. Spanish in New York: Language contact, dialectal leveling and structural continuity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Otheguy, Ricardo, Ana Celia Zentella & David Livert. 2010. Generational differences in pronominal usage in Spanish reflecting language and dialect contact in a bilingual setting.  Language contact: New perspectives, ed. by Muriel Norde, Bob de Jonge & Cornelius Hasselblatt. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co., pp. 45-62.
Otheguy, Ricardo & Ana Celia Zentella. 2007. Apuntes preliminares sobre el contacto lingüístico y dialectal en el uso pronominal del español en Nueva YorkSpanish in contact: Policy, social and linguistic inquiries, ed. by Kim Potowski & Richard Cameron. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. pp. 275-296.

Meeting the Needs of Long-Term English Language Learners in High School

Principal Investigator: Professor Kate Menken
Funder: New York City Department of Education
Total: $426,000 (2006-2016)
The LTELL project has explored the characteristics and educational needs of Long-Term English Language Learners (LTELLs) through two studies in New York City Public schools, with support from the New York City Department of Education. An LTELL is defined as a student who has completed at least six years of English Language Learner services and continues to require ELL services.
Project History
Phase I explored the characteristics and needs of LTELLs with support from NYC DOE, with a quantitative study from January to June 2007. The qualitative study included 29 LTELLs, 5 administrators, and 4 teachers. Phase II continued with NYC DOE support in 2007-09, when researchers tested out academic programming in English and Spanish to serve the needs of LTELLs for ninth and twelfth graders the 2008-09 school year. This qualitative and quantitative study included 42 students overall, with 14 students’ results at a third school used as a control, 11 teachers and 4 administrators. Evaluations included the use of the ALLD as a pre-test for students. RISLUS’s work with LTELLs has continued with professional development programming for educators through Bridges to Academic Success and through the CUNY-NYSIEB project.

Menken, K., Kleyn, T., Ascenzi-Moreno, L., Chae, N., Flores, N., & Funk, A. (2009). Meeting the needs of long-term English language learners in high school, Phase II. A report for the Office of English Language Learners of the New York City Department of Education.

Menken, K., Kleyn, T. & Chae, N. (2007). Meeting the needs of long-term English language learners in high school. A report for the Office of English Language Learners of the New York City Department of Education. Retrieved from:

The Comparative Morpho-Syntax of Appalachian English

Principal Investigators: Professors Judy Bernstein, Marcel den Dikken, Christina Tortora and Raffaella Zanuttini
Funder: National Science Foundation
Total: $119,550 (2005-2008)
In a collaborative research project, a team of researchers from four different academic institutions investigate two specific varieties of Appalachian English, spoken in Dante, Virginia, and Mountain City, Tennessee. The aim of this research was to reach a deeper understanding of grammatical variation, particularly in the areas of the syntax of subjects and subject-verb agreement.
Tortora, C., F. Blanchette, & T. O’Neill. (2015). “Variation in Appalachian verb forms: evidence for a general past.”
Zanuttini, R. and J. B. Bernstein. (2014) “Transitive Expletives in Appalachian English.” In Zanuttini, R. and L. Horn (eds.) Micro-syntactic variation in North American English, Oxford University Press, pp. 143-177.
Tortora, C., 2006. “The Case of Appalachian Expletive they,” American Speech 81.3:266-296.

Tortora, C., 2004. “La variazione sintattica e i dialetti appalachiani,” in G. Marcato (ed). I dialetti e la montagna. Padova: Unipress. pp 337-350.

Language Variation In a New York Public Secondary School

Principal Investigator: Michael Newman
Funder: Sociological Initiatives Foundation
Total: $14,500 (2002)
Project led by Michael Newman of Queens College for the study of variation and structure in the English phonology of bilingual teenagers in two New York City high schools.
Sloanson, P., & Newman, M. 2004. Peer group identification and variation in New York Latino English laterals. City University of New York.

The Role of Syntax in Reading Comprehension: A Study of Bilingual Readers

Principal Investigators: Professors Gita Martohardjono, Elaine Klein and Ricardo Otheguy
Funder: Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Total: $49,979 (2002-2005)
A large pilot study on the role of Spanish syntactic competence in the acquisition of English literacy by bilingual kindergarteners in three NYC public schools. Following the pilot study, the team, led by Gita Martohardjono and Ricardo Otheguy, utilized the results to conduct teacher training sessions at a Brooklyn public school.
Gabriele, A., Troseth, E., Martohardjono, G., & Otheguy, R. (2009). Emergent Literacy Skills in Bilingual Children: Evidence for the Role of L1 Syntactic Comprehension. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 12.533-547.
Martohardjono, G., R. Otheguy, A. Gabriele, M. de Goeas-Malonne, M. Szupica-Pyrzanowski, E. Troseth, S. Rivero & Z. Schutzman. (2004). The Role of Syntax in Reading Comprehension: A study of bilingual readers. In ISB4: Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism,  ed. by J. Cohen,  K. McAlister, K. Rolstad, & J. MacSwan.  Somerville, MA:Cascadilla Press. (A paper presented in the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, April 30-May 5, 2003).
Martohardjono, G., Otheguy, R., Rivero, S., de Goeas-Malone, M., & Szupica-Pyrzanowski, M. (2004). Supporting language skills in immigrant pre-schoolers: An intervention studyBilingLatAm 2004.  Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education in Latin America. Buenos Aires: English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate & Universidad de San Andrés. 177-189.

The Interaction Of Language And Dialect Contact: Variable Statement Of Spanish Subject Pronouns In Six Spanish Dialects In New York City

Professors Ricardo Otheguy and Ana Celia Zentella

Spanish speakers in New York City (NYC) are experiencing language and dialect contact on an unusually large scale. This project investigates the consequences of such contact through a sociolinguistic study of the alternation between presence and absence of subject personal pronouns (SPPs) with finite verbs in Spanish. We ask whether Spanish dialects are undergoing leveling or hyperdifferentiation and/or whether they are converging with English. Leveling may indicate the rise of a NYC Spanish, suggestive of a new NYC Latino identity; hyperdifferentiation may suggest the emergence of transnational identities that tie immigrants and language minorities to their distant communities of origin more than to speakers of other dialects in the immigrant setting.

Meeting the Needs of Long-Term English Language Learners in High School

Professor Kate Menken
Funded by the Office of English Language Learners of the New York City Department of Education

The purpose of this research project is to explore the characteristics and educational needs of Long-Term English Language Learners (LTELLs), students who remain engaged in the process of learning English after 6 years or more in the United States. While there are significant numbers of LTELLs in the New York City public schools, comprising approximately one-third of all high school English Language Learners (ELLs), very little research has been conducted about these students. Though often orally proficient in English, Long-Term ELLs are characterized by low levels of academic literacy in both English and their home language, and typically score below grade level on assessments. Traditional English as a second language and bilingual education programs at the secondary level were designed to meet the needs of newly arrived ELLs who are literate in their home language, but such programs often fail to meet the needs of Long-Term ELLs. To gain a clearer understanding of this population and learn how high schools can best meet the needs of these students, a descriptive qualitative study will be conducted in three New York City high schools serving LTELLs.

Evaluating the ‘College Now’ Experience of English Language Learners

Principal Investigators: Gita Martohardjono and Ricardo Otheguy
Key Personnel: Shannon Webb
Funder: CUNY College Now
Total: $10,000 (2010-2011)
At the request of the CUNY College Now program, the team, led by Gita Martohardjono and Ricardo Otheguy, evaluated the effectiveness of College Now college prep workshops through Queens College and Queensborough Community College. The purpose was to learn whether there were measurable outcomes stemming from the specialized College Now experiences of high school English language learners, and specifically, which academic fronts had benefited.

Temporal Markers

Principal Investigators: Elaine Klein, Gita Martohardjono, Virginia Valian
Funder: National Science Foundation
Total: $198,000 (2002-2007)
In a collaboration between Hunter College, Queens College, and the Second Language Acquisition Lab at the Graduate Center, this project investigated the comprehension and production of tense and aspect markers in Standard American English by child and adult speakers of Chinese and bidialectal speakers of African American Vernacular English, and in English and Spanish by Spanish/English bilingual children.
Klein, E.C. & Martohardjono, G., 2017. The Development of morphosyntax in child and adult L2 acquisition. In E. Fernandez and H. Cairns, eds. The Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.

Martohardjono, G., V. Valian and E. Klein, forthcoming. The Tense Puzzle in Second Language Acquisition.  In G. Martohardjono and S. Flynn, eds., Language in Development:  a crosslinguistic perspective.  Cambridge, MA. MIT Press.

The Yiddish in Jewish Day Schools Project

Principal Investigators: Ricardo Otheguy
Funder: The Aaron Fishman Foundation 
Total: $2,400 (2003-2004)

A study led by Dr. Richardo Otheguy and Joshua Fishman to survey the use of Yiddish in Jewish day schools in the United States and Canada. The project investigated the extent to which the Yiddish language is used in Jewish Day Schools in the United States, and the interest that these schools may have in greater use of the language for instruction and as a subject.