Catherine Stafford

Position title: Associate Professor


1138 Van Hise Hall

headshot: Cathy Stafford

Fall 2024 Office Hours

coming in early September


Cathy Stafford is an associate professor of Hispanic Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. She is also the current director of UW-Madison’s Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Her scholarly interests encompass various areas of bilingual development, including adult SLA and development and maintenance of bilingual Spanish in post-migrant and Spanish-as-a-heritage-language (SHL) contexts. Pursuing longstanding curiosity about the workings of the mind/brain as people develop bilingualism, she was originally trained in linguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to adult SLA, and she has researched and published on how cognition both influences and is influenced by language learning and use. In more recent collaborative work with graduate students and other colleagues, she has broadened the lens through which she views the bilingual mind/brain, considering cognition associated with language development to comprise not only intra-individual processes, but also interactional processes such as co-construction of identities in post-migrant and SHL contexts. In one current research project, Professor Stafford is working collaboratively with students to explore linguistic innovation in U.S. Spanish by comparing how two generations of Spanish-English bilinguals express temporality (including verb tense and aspect) in oral narratives.


PhD, Georgetown University
MA, Middlebury College

Recent Honors and Awards

2017-2019. Wisconsin Language Roadmap Initiative, funded by a two-year grant from the Language Flagship of the National Security Education Program in the U.S. Department of Defense (co-PI with Robert Howell, Professor of German, and Guido Podestá, Dean of the International Division; Executive Director, Dr. Dianna Murphy)

2016. Phi Beta Kappa Excellence in Teaching Award

2015-2016. Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment Mini-Grant (co-PI with Joseph Salmons, Professor of German, UW-Madison)

2015. University of Wisconsin Graduate School Research Committee Competition (co-PI with Joseph Salmons, Professor of German, UW-Madison)

2012-2014. University of Wisconsin Graduate School Research Committee Competition (sole PI)

Selected Publications

Lado, B., Bowden, H., Stafford, C., & Sanz, C. (2017). Two birds, one stone, or how learning a foreign language makes you a better language learner. Hispania, 100, 362-378.

Sanz, C., Lin, H-J., Lado, B., Stafford, C., Bowden, H. (2016). One size fits all? Learning conditions and working memory capacity in beginning language development. Applied Linguistics, 37, 669-692.

Stafford, C., & Azevedo, C. S. (2015). Variation in Spanish heritage speakers’ bilingualism and cognition. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, 8, 429-439.

Yager, L., Hellmold, N., Joo, H-A., Putnam, M.T., Rossi, E., Stafford, C., & Salmons, J. (2015). New structural patterns in moribund grammar: Case marking in Heritage German. Frontiers in Psychology, 6:1706. Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01716

Stafford, C. (2013a). What’s on your mind? How private speech mediates cognition during initial non-primary language development. Applied Linguistics, 34, 151-172.

Stafford. C. (2013b). Spanish in Wisconsin: advantages of maintenance and prospects for sustained vitality. In T. Purnell, E. Raimy, & J. Salmons (Eds.), Wisconsin Talk: Linguistic diversity in the Badger State (pp. 123-141). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Stafford, C., Bowden, H., & Sanz, C. (2012). Optimizing language instruction: matters of explicitness, practice and cue learning. Language Learning, 62, 741-768