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Module QXL-3317:
Child Language Acquisition

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Eirini Sanoudaki

Overall aims and purpose

This module provides an overview of how language is learned. The main objective is to introduce students to central questions in language acquisition research (e.g., How do we learn the meaning of words? What are the advantages of bringing up a child bilingually? Are children better language learners than adults?). The focus will be on first language acquisition. We will cover topics such as phonological development, syntactic development, language production, and normal vs. atypical development. We will also examine a variety of theoretical positions, including nativist and empiricist accounts of language acquisition, and a range of empirical approaches used to test these positions.

• to develop students’ understanding of the processes involved in language acquisition.
• to enhance students’ appreciation of the various theoretical accounts of language acquisition.
• to enhance students’ awareness of the implications of the research findings for linguistic theory.
• to introduce students to the research techniques used in this area of study.

Course content

This module provides an introduction to the study of language development. There are two goals for this course. The first goal is to introduce students to key findings and central debates in the study of language development. The second goal is to provide students with the tools to critically examine the existing literature. The lectures will provide students with the “big picture”, i.e. central topics are summarized, important studies discussed and open questions outlined. In the tutorials, students discuss key studies in detail and reflect on methodologies, results and implications.

The following topics will be covered:
1. Early language development
2. Phonological development
3. Syntactic development
4. Multilingual Acquisition
5. Theories of language development: Constructivist and mentalist approaches
6. Bilingual development
7. Language disorders
8. Developmental neurolinguistics

Assessment Criteria


Student has achieved a thorough standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes; or student has demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement in one or more learning outcomes together with a good overall standard. Student has achieved a thorough understanding of the subject, both in terms of content and theory; student is able to apply concepts clearly and accurately; substantial evidence of critical and original thought and analysis; clear, logical argument; high level of communicative competence; free from irrelevant material and errors of spelling and punctuation; evidence of extensive reading beyond basic texts and clear and accurate references to source material.


Student has achieved the minimum acceptable standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all the learning outcomes. Student can demonstrate a minimum level of understanding of the basic concepts and be able to apply them to data with some degree of accuracy.


Student has achieved a better-than-average standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes, and has a clear and accurate understanding of concepts; ability to apply concepts to data critically and thoughtfully; evidence of wide reading and clear and accurate reference to source materials; free from misunderstanding and errors of content; free from irrelevant material.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will know what the central questions in the study of language development are.

  2. Students will be able to critically evaluate empirical studies.

  3. Students will know which research methods are commonly used in the study of language development.

  4. Students will be able to present and discuss key facts, concepts, ideas and approaches relating to the study of language development.

Assessment Methods

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do required readings for each class, do further research/reading on the topics and prepare assignments.


Weekly 2-hour lecture (for 11 teaching weeks)


Fortnightly 1-hour seminar (5 over 11 teaching weeks)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse, interpret data accurately, and draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate 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.
  • Fluency, confidence and proficiency in the use of English -students will demonstrate their ability and proficiency to use and understand and instruct others in English in a range of academic and classroom contexts.
  • 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
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • 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 the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.
  • Proficiency in the use of English in reading, writing, speaking and/or listening - students will demonstrate proficiency in their ability to use and understand English in a range of different contexts and via different media.
  • Understanding of the nature and organization of language - students will demonstrate familiarity with observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: