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BA Linguistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Topics in Language Development

Unit code LELA30671
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The study of child language development is a fascinating area of research with implications for both  linguistic theory and applied contexts. In this course we will focus on four specific aspects of child language development in depth: the acquisition of syntax, the role of the environment and interaction in language development, language development and education, and atypical language development. We will discuss and evaluate competing theories of language development and critically evaluate current research within the four areas outlined above. The course will contain a practical component in which you will have the opportunity to use child language research tools to conduct your own research on corpus data. The analysis will involve quantitative data and statistical analysis.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Psycholinguistics LELA20962 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


To investigate four key aspect of child language development in depth:
  • acquisition of syntax
  • the role of the environment in language development
  • language development and education
  • 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

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

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.

Employability skills

The course content encourages members of the class to form links between the world of academic research and the world outside the university thereby providing confidence to use academic research in the `real world¿. The focus on quantitative data analysis will be particularly useful in a range of careers and allow students to evaluate claims made regarding statistics and also to present quantitative data in a clear, accurate and accessible manner.
The course will have particular benefits for any student interested in pursuing a career which involves working with children, young adults, and individuals with special needs. However the course will also provide key skills in critical analysis, dissemination of information to specialist (but non-academic) audiences and therefore be of value for a range of career paths.

Assessment methods

Written research report 45%
Exam  55%
Research plan NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Feedback method Formative or summative
Written feedback on research report plan Formative
Written feedback on research report Summative
Exam 1-to-1 feedback on request Summative


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 176.8

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thea Cameron-Faulkner Unit coordinator

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