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BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Topics in Language Development

Unit code LELA30672
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? No


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
LELA20301 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


·         To investigate four key aspect of child language development in depth:

o   acquisition of syntax

o   the role of the environment in language development

o   language development and education

o   atypical language development


·         To critically evaluate key studies within the four areas.


·         To conduct an original research project and present the findings in a professional research report aimed at early years practitioners/educators.


·         To evaluate a range of methodologies and statistical tests.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:


·         Display an in-depth understanding of the four key aspects of child language development

·         Use primary sources to formulate a research hypothesis

·         Evaluate contrasting methodologies used in child language development

·         Conduct quantitative analysis of corpus data

·         Identify the real world applications of child language research


Provisional outline


  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: Patterns of Syntactic development
  • Week 3: Generativist theories of syntactic development
  • Week 4: Constructivist theories of syntactic development
  • Week 5: The role of child directed speech in language development
  • Week 6: Widening the scope of the input
  • Week 7: Language development and the classroom
  • Week 8: The development of reading and writing
  • Week 9: Specific Language Impairment
  • Week 10: Williams syndrome
  • Week 11: Conclusions 

Teaching and learning methods

·         Weekly two-hour lecture

·         Weekly hour-long seminar/practical

·         Pre-lecture directed reading (lecture flipping)

·         Supporting video content (via Bb)

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:


·         Compare and contrast generativist and constructivist accounts of the acquisition of syntax.

·         Discuss and compare the effects of shared book reading, child-directed speech, and socio-economic class on language development.

·         Display an understanding of the interaction between language development and formal education.

·         Describe two forms of atypical language development and evaluate the theoretical import associated with the disorders.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:


·         Critically evaluate current research in child language development.

·         Display an understanding of the ethical issues associated with the discipline.

·         Display development of their ability to handle quantitative data.

·         Apply current theories of language development to new data.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:


·         Produce a concise and targeted piece of written work

·         Confidently discuss current child language research

·         Read and evaluate primary sources of child language research

·         Use research tools to analyse child language corpus data

Produce a written report based on primary research for a non- academic audience  (i.e. early years practitioners).

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

·         Evaluate current theories of language development and present the findings in a manner accessible to a non academic audience

·         Develop their time management  and group work skills

·         Apply theoretical research to real world problems and contexts.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Written research report



2.5 hours




Feedback methods

·         Oral feedback on practical work

·         Written feedback on research report

·         Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Ambridge, B. & Lieven, E. (2011) Child Language Acquisition¿Contrasting Theoretical Approaches. Cambridge University Press.


Bus, A. G., H., v. I. M., & Pellegrini, A., D. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65(1), 1-21.


Hulme, C. & Snowling, M. (2009). Developmental disorders of language learning and cognition. Whiley-Blackwell


Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., Cymerman, E., & Levine, S. (2002). Language input and child syntax. Cognitive Psychology, 45, 337-374.


Tomasello, M. (2000) Constructing a language. A usage-based theory of Language Development. Harvard University Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.2
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thea Cameron-Faulkner Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Pre-requisites: LELA20302 Child Language Acquisition.

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