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David Abugaber, MPhil

PhD candidate

Hispanic and Italian Studies

Pronouns: He/Him/His

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 I was born in Mexico but moved to Texas as a child. My background in a bilingual household first inspired me to study linguistics. Today I am interested in how new experimental methods such as fMRI, EEG, MEG, and mass online questionnaires allow us to test linguistic theories from the 20th century like never before, and how these can be applied to the field of second language acquisition. The way I see it, an individual language teacher may teach somebody how to fish, but a psycholinguist could one day help "teach somebody how to teach somebody how to fish." In this way, I want to help give others access to the same opportunities I had as a speaker of the lingua franca in a linguistically unequal world.

My current research focuses on machine learning decoding of neural indices of second language grammar processing with/without conscious awareness of the rule.

Prior research also touches on how grammar learning can be conceived as the gradual acquisition of recurring statistical patterns in the input, such that grammatical constructions emerge gradually as the result of processes of abstraction over individual exemplars of a particular form.

More recently (since COVID has halted EEG data collection), I've moved to using evidence accumulation models of reaction time data from an Internet-based experiment.

Selected Publications

Abugaber, D. & Morgan-Short, K. (submitted). Differences between implicit vs. explicit grammar learning as revealed by drift diffusion modeling. Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 2021. July 27-29. Vienna, Austria.

Morgan-Short, K., Finestrat, I., Luque, A., & Abugaber, D. (resubmitted). Exploring new insights into explicit and implicit second language processing: Event-related potentials analyzed by source attribution. Language Learning.

Abugaber, D. (2020). Frequency and semantic prototypicality in Spanish learners’ dative constructions. In D. Koike (Ed.), Language Patterns in Spanish and Beyond: Structure, Context and Development. New York: Routledge.

Ashburn, S., Abugaber, D., Antony, J., Bennion, K., Bridwell, D., Cardenas-Iniguez, C., Doss, M., Fernández, L., Huijsmans, I., Krisst, L., Lapate, R., Layher, E., Leong, J., Li, Y., Marquez, F., Munoz-Rubke, F., Musz, L., Patterson, T., Powers, J., Proklova, D., Rapuano, K., Robinson, S., Ross, J., Samaha, J., Sazma, M., Stewart, A., Stickel, A., Stolk, A., Vilgis, V., Zirnstein, M. (2020). Towards a socially responsible, transparent, and reproducible cognitive neuroscience. In D. Poeppel, M. Gazzaniga, & R. Mangun (Eds.), The Cognitive Neurosciences, 6th edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Abugaber, D. (2018). Face recognition and bilingual lexical access: Familiarized faces prime performance in a written language-selection task. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 2018. July 25-28. Madison, WI

Marsden, E., Morgan-Short, K., Abugaber, D., & Thompson, S. (2018). Self-labelled replication in second language research: Narrative and systematic reviews, and recommendations for the field. Language Learning, 68(2), 321-391.

Abugaber, D. (2017). Using ARIMA for Time Series Analysis. In A. Demos (Ed.), A language, not a letter: Learning statistics in R. Available online at

Citron, F., Abugaber, D., & Herbert, C. (2016). Approach and withdrawal tendencies during written word processing: Effects of task, emotional valence, and emotional arousal. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, article #1935.

Service to Community

Host weekly Spanish conversation hours. Join us on Zoom, Tuesdays at 12pm!

Notable Honors

2020-2021, William Orr Dingwall Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in the Cognitive, Clinical, and Neural Foundations of Language, William Orr Dingwall Foundation

2020-2021, John Hope Franklin Dissertation Fellowship, American Philosophical Society

2020-2022, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award 1941189. Doctoral Dissertation Research: Disentangling neural indices of implicit vs. explicit second language processing, National Science Foundation

2020-2021, Mellon Mays Fellowship Travel and Research Grant, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

2016-2017, Deiss Award for Graduate Research. Input frequency and second language grammatical processing: An Event-Related Potential study, University of Illinois at Chicago Provost

2016-2019, University Fellowship, University of Illinois at Chicago

2014-2015, Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Cambridge University