Module QXL-3336:
Phonology in Bilingual Acq.

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Marco Tamburelli

Overall aims and purpose

This module presents various theoretical and conceptual issues in phonological acquisition with particular focus on phonological knowledge in children who are exposed to two languages simultaneously and from an early age. A variety of transfer phenomena will be discussed in relation to various phonological domains (phoneme inventories, phonotactic patterns, syllabic structure etc.) and their theoretical explanations evaluated. The module has a particular focus on theory development and on the theoretical treatment of phonological phenomena in Bilingual First Language Acquisition.

Course content

This module provides an overview of how simultaneous bilinguals develop knowledge of the sound systems of their two languages and how that knowledge is represented in their minds. There are three goals for this course. The first goal is to introduce students to key findings and central debates in research on bilingual acquisition of phonology. The second goal is to provide students with the tools to critically examine the existing literature, particularly with regard to explaining phenomena in bilingual phonology through theory development and evaluation. The third goal is to equip the students with the ability to appropriately frame narrow research hypotheses in view of well-known phenomena and to apply this ability to their own research. The lectures will present and discuss specific issues from current research (mostly from research articles) while also outlining open questions on the topic. In the seminars, students discuss key studies in more detail and reflect on methodologies, results and theoretical implications.

The topics will include:
1. Introduction to the acquisition of phonology in bilinguals.
2. Phonological organisation in bilinguals.
3. Transfer effects in phonology.
4. Acceleration effects in phonology.
5. The acquisition of melody and segmental content in bilinguals.
6. Phonotactic effects in bilingual acquisition.
7. Bilingual acquisition of syllabic structure.

Assessment Criteria


The answer must address the question.
The answer must show a basic knowledge and understanding of the relevant key areas and principles of Phonology in Bilingual Acquisition.
The student must show evidence of being able to apply the principles to the analysis of language and linguistic examples and/or data.
The answer must show evidence of some background study.


The answer must be focussed and structured.
The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding of the relevant areas of Phonology in Bilingual Acquisition.
The linguistic examples used in the answer may be based upon examples from the literature but must also include original examples.
The answer must show evidence of background study with at least some from primary sources.


The answer must be highly focused and well-structured.
The answer must show comprehensive knowledge and detailed understanding.
The answer must show some original interpretation, new links between topics and/or a new approach to a problem.
The answer must show evidence of extensive background study using primary sources.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will know the central questions addressed by the current literature in the bilingual acquisition of phonology.

  2. Students will be able to evaluate empirical studies in bilingual acquisition of phonology.

  3. Students will understand the principles underlying the scientific method in general and the development of scientific theories of phonology and acquisition in particular.

  4. Students will be able to evaluate theoretical explanations in phonology and their application to bilingual acquisition.

  5. Students will understand the research methods commonly used in research on bilingual acquisition of phonology and how to evaluate and select them.

  6. Students will be able to present and discuss key facts, concepts, ideas and approaches relating to the study of bilingual acquisition of phonology.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay (2500 words)

Essay on a predefined topic, exploring some empirical and theoretical issue(s) in the acquisition of phonology in bilinguals.

CLASS TEST BlackBoard based test

A BlackBoard based test accessible from any computer with internet access. This assessment will require you to answer specific questions on the content of one or more journal article(s). The article(s) at issue will involve specific theoretical assumptions aimed at accounting for some phenomenon in child phonology.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do further reading, go through materials covered in class and do further research on the topics, and prepare assignments.


Fortnightly 1 hour seminar (5 over the 11 weeks)


Weekly 2 hour lecture (for 11 weeks)


Students are encouraged to see the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during published office hours (or by appointment) to discuss issues with the module content, seek clarification on topics and discussions, and discuss feedback on assessments and class exercises.

Private study

Directed Reading - students are given required reading each week (of about 2 hours) on the topic of that week's lecture which they need to prepare in advance of Seminar discussion.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Oral presentation skills & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in oral form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies, to an advanced level.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Problem solving - students will be able to evidence sophisticated problem-solving skills in formulating problems (factual, empirical, theoretical) in precise terms, identifying key issues, and developing the confidence to address challenging problems using a variety of different approaches
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Personal organisation - students will develop the ability to undertake self-directed study and learning with appropriate time-management
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect upon, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • Information technology - students will develop the ability to use computing and IT skills in order to find, store, interpret and present information, to produce a range of electronic documents and to use software confidently
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Working effectively with others - students will develop the ability to work well with others as part of a group or a team
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Knowledge of linguistic theory and application - students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge of terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the study of human language and linguistics.
  • Understanding of the nature and organisation of language - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.
  • Understanding the nature of commonalities and differences across languages - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to universals and diversity exhibited by and across languages.
  • Understanding of the nature of bi/multilingualism - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to the nature of bilingual and multilingual individuals and communities.
  • Knowledge of the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: