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Language Acquisition and Computational Linguistics Internships and Independent Studies

Internships in first language acquisition and bilingualism and cognition may be full-time or half-time, and have a minimum duration of 8 weeks. Internships are most common during the summer but can also be taken throughout the year. The internships are, unfortunately, unpaid and have a minimum time commitment of 18 hours/week during the summer and 14 hours/week during the semester.  Some students turn their internship into a capstone project or an independent study project at their home school.  Current lab research is shown elsewhere on this site. Click there for more information. To explore children’s syntactic development we:

  • perform automated analyses of already existing corpora – this is our current focus
  • record, transcribe, and analyze natural speech between children and their parents
  • ask children to imitate different sentences and actions
  • examine comprehension of different types of sentences
  • ask children and adults from different language backgrounds to repeat sentences and describe pictures

At present our studies focus in two areas: analyses of corpora, where knowledge of Python is a big plus, and transcription and analysis of spontaneous and experimental speech samples of young children.  We want to distinguish between “the cabdriver theory of language acquisition” (children say what they hear) and a nativist theory.

To explore bilingualism and cognition, we use use a number of methods, such as grammaticality and other judgments, performance in a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) task, and performance on different executive function tasks.

Interns participate fully and receive training in the various facets of the work.  At any given time, we may be performing some of the following activities: transcribing children’s and adults’ speech into a computer; calculating the average length of the children’s and adults’ utterances; developing test materials; scoring data; creating training and testing materials for automated analyses; testing and audiotaping children and adults. In addition, interns attend laboratory meetings in which we discuss the theoretical background of the research, methodological and ethical principles of research, and specific solutions to problems that arise in the course of the studies.  Interns also have a two-hour seminar once a week, covering topics in linguistics and in experimental design.  Supervision and training are provided by Dr. Valian and graduate students.

Since some projects can require frequent contact with parents, caregivers, children, and a diverse group of adults, it is essential that interns be personally mature, able to understand and accommodate the concerns and needs of children and adults, and work well with children, their parents, and other adults. The research also involves team work within the lab, so interns must be collegial and help in group problem-solving.  The research requires coordination of many different activities, so interns must be highly organized and reliable. Finally, the transcription of speech requires patience and perfectionism.

Assistants on the projects at LARC may perform different combinations of the following activities:

  • Analyze spontaneous speech data and experimental data
  • Perform computer-assisted analyses of existing corpora
  • Record, transcribe, and analyze child and adult learners’ spontaneous speech
  • Develop materials for use in production and comprehension tasks
  • Perform studies with child and adult participants
  • Recruit child and adult participants
  • Keep the laboratory running smoothly by attending to daily and weekly tasks


  • We accept applications from students currently in college, as well as individuals who have already received their BA or are pursuing other degrees.  We recognize that no one will have all the skills we list below.  The list gives you an idea of what we are looking for.
  • Preferred languages in addition to native-like fluency in English: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Italian, Armenian (Western or Eastern)
  • Preferred major: psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, or computer science
  • Preferred coursework: cognitive psychology, experimental psychology, statistics, developmental psychology, basic syntax, cognitive science, language acquisition, computer science
  • Preferred research experience: previous laboratory research, if possible including transcribing speech; work with two-year-olds; creation of web-based experiments
  • Preferred computational and computer skills: Python, R, E-prime, PsychoPy, Qualtrics, basic word-processing skills, database management, graph and slide presentation, modeling, website maintenance; automatic speech recognition
  • Preferred statistical skills: Excel, SPSS, or R
  • Preferred other skills: videotaping and incorporation of videos into slides and other formats; website design

Application Instructions:

Review of candidates occurs on a rolling basis.  Although most interns choose to work during the summer, other placement periods are possible.  Some students have received stipends from their home institution, or have received course credit at their home institution for participating.

Please submit by email:

  • A cover letter addressing why you are interested in the position, along with your qualifications
  • A resumé or CV (please include computer and research skills)
  • A transcript (unofficial is fine), with relevant courses and grades highlighted, if possible
  • The name of one instructor who will send a recommendation letter that addresses your research skills or promise (ask the recommender to e-mail the letter directly to us)
  • The anticipated length of time and start date for which you will be available

When sending in the above documents please name the attachments clearly and appropriately (For example “Jane Smith- resume.docx” and “Jane Smith – transcript.pdf”).

Apply by email:

For more information, contact:
Virginia Valian, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics, and Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences

Successful interns have included high school juniors, rising sophomore college students, and upper-level college students. The main requirements are an interest in language learning, maturity, and organization.

Independent studies are also available. Contact the lab for more information.

Research Assistant Positions

There are no Research Assistant positions available at this time, only internships and independent studies.