Language in Atypical Circumstances - LL531

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Autumn 6 15 (7.5) DR V Janke checkmark-circle


During this course, students will focus on a core set of linguistic case studies, which will equip students with the ability to:
• Assess the extent to which linguistic capacities interact with psychological ones;
• Recognise the relevance of the distinction between developmental and acquired disorders;
• Critically analyse evidence for/against linguistic principles being operative in child grammars;
• Distinguish between language delay and language deviance with regard to developmental disorders;
• Understand the results of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which subjects' capabilities are measured.

Main themes will be picked from a variety of topics each year, from the following selection: Levels of Representation; Interaction between 'modules'; British Sign Language; Vocabulary and Syntax in the Aphasias; Morpho-syntactic abilities in SLI, complex syntax in Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome and Autism, Linguistic savants; Pragmatic knowledge in these disorders; Bi-Lingualism.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Mini Project or Long Essay (3,000 words) – 80%
Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

De Groot, Annette. (2011). Language and Cognition in Bilinguals and Multilinguals. London: Routledge
Fodor, Jerry (1998). There and Back Again: A Review of Annette Karmiloff-Smith's Beyond Modularity in Fodor, Jerry (1998) In Critical Condition: Polemical Essays on Cognitive Science & the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Foster-Cohen, Susan. (2009). Language Acquisition Palgrave Advances in Linguistics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Guasti, Maria. (2012). Language Acquisition: The Growth of Grammar. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Hoff, Erica & Shatz, Maggie (2009). Blackwell Handbook of Language Development: Oxford: Blackwell.
Naigles, Letitia. (ed) (2017). Innovative Investigations of Language in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Language and the Human Lifespan Series. Washington, De Gruyter Mouton/American Psychological Association.
Smith, Neil and Tsimpli, Ianthi (1995). The Mind of a Savant: Language Learning and Modularity London: Blackwell.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate their knowledge of current key debates within linguistics/language acquisition;
Consider how different levels of representation interact with each other;
Understand the difference between atypical language development and atypical language acquired once development is complete;
Assess the extent to which theoretical and empirical work on atypical linguistic development coincide;
Demonstrate the ability to analyse transcripts from data from a variety of subjects with particular language impairments, using these data to identify typical characteristics of these disorders;
Understand the results of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which subjects' capabilities are measured (e.g. standardised vocabulary, verbal and non-verbal reasoning test; experimental tests designed to tap into particular aspects of linguistic knowledge).


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 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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