Janet L. McDonald, Professor

photo of McDonaldOffice: 223A Audubon Hall
Department of Psychology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Office Phone: (225) 578-4116
Email: psmcdo@lsu.edu

Research Interests

My research is done within the field of psycholinguistics. I am specifically interested in first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, and language comprehension.

Many of my research projects deal with language learning in adulthood. If you have studied a foreign language in high school or college, you probably have encountered some frustration. Unlike your native language, acquired when you were a child, learning a second language in adulthood seems effortful and difficult. Your ultimate level of mastery in the second language is also likely to be much less than that of native speakers. Some researchers speculate this is because there is a biologically determined critical period for language acquisition—that is, that language must be acquired early in life for mastery to be nativelike.

I am interested in alternative explanations of age of acquisition effects on language mastery based on cognitive processes. In particular, I am interested in exploring how differences in phonological ability, working memory capacity and processing speed influence grammatical mastery. My lab has examined this relationship in adult second language speakers, native speakers under processing stress, and in native speaking children.

There are numerous research opportunities in my lab for students who are interested in language acquisition, language comprehension or bilingualism (or who are bilingual themselves!) 


I presently teach the following courses:
  • PSYC 4033 Memory and Forgetting
  • PSYC 4111 Intermediate Statistics
  • PSYC 7754 Psycholinguistics
  • HNRS 3033 Psychological Methods

Representative Publications

McDonald, J. L. & Roussel, C. C. (2010). Past tense grammaticality judgment and production in non-native and stressed native English speakers. /Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 429-448.

McDonald, J. L. (2008). Grammaticality judgments in children: The role of age, working memory, and phonological ability. Journal of Child Language, 35, 247-268.

McDonald, J. L. (2008). Differences in the cognitive demands of word order, plurals, and subject-verb agreement constructions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 980-984.

McDonald, J. L. (2006). Alternatives to the critical period hypothesis: Processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgment performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory & Language, 55, 381-401.