Language Development in Exceptional Circumstances - LING8440

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


During this course, students focus on a set of case studies (e.g. Language abilities in Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Specific Language Impairment and Down Syndrome; The Aphasias; Sign Language), which provide novel insights into ongoing questions within language acquisition research. Issues considered include: the extent to which linguistic capacities interact with psychological ones; the distinction between developmental and acquired disorders; the evidence for and against linguistic principles being operative in child grammars; the distinction between language delay and language deviance, and the reliability and validity of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which individuals' capabilities are measured.


Contact hours

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

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

• Presentation (10 minutes) – 20%
• Critical Review (2,500 words) – 80%

Reassessment methods
• Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Foster-Cohen, S. (2009). Language Acquisition Palgrave Advances in Linguistics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Guasti, M. (2004). Language Acquisition: The Growth of Grammar. Bradford: Bradford Books.
Hoff, E & M Shatz (2009). Blackwell Handbook of Language Development. London: Wiley-Blackwell.
Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). Beyond Modularity: A Developmental Perspective on Cognitive Science. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Marshark, M, Siple P, Lillo-Martin, D, Campbell, R & Everhart, V. (1997). Relations of Language and Thought: The View from Sign Language and Deaf Children. Oxford: OUP.
Smith, N. and Ianthi Tsimpli (1995). The Mind of a Savant: Language Learning and Modularity London: Blackwell
Ritchie, W. and T. K. Bhatia (eds) (1999). Handbook of Child Language Acquisition. London: Academic Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

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

1 Consider how different linguistic components affect each other;
2 Understand the difference between atypical language development and atypical language acquired once development is complete;
3 Assess the extent to which theoretical and empirical work on atypical linguistic development inform each other;
4 Analyse transcripts from a variety of corpora in order to identify typical characteristics of specific disorders;
5 Understand the results of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which subjects' capabilities are measured (e.g. standardised vocabulary, verbal and non-verbal
reasoning tests; experimental tests designed to tap into particular aspects of linguistic knowledge).

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

1 Engage in critical reflection, verbal discussion and written analysis of various theoretical approaches and empirical findings;
2 Assess different theoretical approaches and evaluate the efficacy of such approaches;
3 Undertake independent learning (exercising initiative and personal responsibility), use secondary texts with critical discrimination, reflect critically on their own academic
work and present coherent arguments both during classroom discussion and in their written work;
4 Explain complex phenomena to interested yet non-specialist audiences.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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