First Language Acquisition - LING5540

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 5 15 (7.5) Samuel D'Elia checkmark-circle


This course will start by examining the topic of language acquisition, demarcating the domains for linguistic inquiry. It will challenge everyday assumptions about the way in which children acquire language and introduce key theoretical issues, always assessing the validity of each theory on the basis of empirical evidence. The course will examine the biological basis of language and its localisation and lateralisation, using evidence from both typical and atypical populations. It will evaluate the role of input in language acquisition and the extent to which this facilitates linguistic development. All these issues will be set against an understanding of the normal stages of language acquisition, essentially mapping out the linguistic milestones reached by typically developing children to the age of four. An understanding of the interaction between the components involved (phonology, morphology, semantics, rudimentary structure, pragmatics) will provide the empirical backdrop to assess the efficacy of theoretical models introduced. The course will end, having laid the foundations for students to undertake a higher level of research in this area.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
• Online Timed Quiz (60 minutes) – 35%
• Essay (1,500 words) – 65%

Reassessment methods
• Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages: .

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their understanding of core concepts in linguistic theory, the fundamentals of empirical enquiry and be able to distinguish key theories that have approached
the logical problem of language acquisition;
2 Recognise the milestones that characterise typical patterns of language acquisition and be able to link these to standard measures of linguistic stages;
3 Evaluate the role of environmental, cognitive and linguistic factors in language acquisition, and the relations between them;
4 Develop lines of argument and make informed judgements, which support/contest theories, on the basis of empirical evidence that they will have considered throughout
the course;
5 Demonstrate an understanding of how to assess the extent to which a child's language is age- and stage- appropriate.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate written fluency developed through essays;
2 Demonstrate time management skills honed through weekly preparatory reading and informal data analyses during the term;
3 Demonstrate a refined capacity for critical thought and the ability to express these thoughts accurately to others.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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