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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Language Sciences

Postgraduate Course: First Language Acquisition (LASC11013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe aim of this course is to introduce students to the principal findings, concepts and models in the field of first language acquisition.
Course description How is it that all typically-developing children acquire language in a relatively short space of time and seemingly without extensive external assistance? To answer this question, the course examines the ways in which aspects of language -- such as phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax -- develop in children, and then discusses theories that have been proposed to explain the observed developmental phenomena in these domains.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 27, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 167 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Critical review (50%): 3,000 words (hard limit). Deadline: 3 November 2016, 12 noon. Assessment returned by 24 November 2016. Feedback: specific and global comments based on marking criteria, electronically marked on Learn.

2. Data analysis exercise (50%): 2,500 words (hard limit). Deadline: 15 December 2016, 12 noon. Assessment returned by 19 January 2017. Feedback: specific and global comments based on marking criteria, electronically marked on Learn.
Feedback Assessment 1 (critical review): a) Students will be given a sample review that follows the format requirements and content expectations along with the assignment instructions. b) Useful perspectives on critical evaluation of the relevant articles will be addressed in paper discussions during tutorials.

Assessment 2 (data analysis): During the lab session, students will be a) given short exercises to practice commands that can be used for the data analysis, and b) walked through a sample analysis.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. describe how language development unfolds in infants and children
  2. discuss the extent which language acquisition is dependent on various biological, linguistic, cognitive and environmental factors
  3. explain theories of language acquisition
  4. critically evaluate theoretical and empirical work on first language acquisition
  5. analyse developmental data using theories and models discussed in the course
Reading List
Aslin, R. A. and Newport, E. L. (2012). Statistical learning: From acquiring specific items to forming general rules. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 170-176.

Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 3-11.

De Lange, J., Vasic, N. and Avrutin, S. (2009). Reading between the (head)lines: a processing account of article omission in newspaper headlines and child speech. Lingua, 119, 1523-1540.

Diesendruck, G. (2009). Mechanisms of word learning. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of language development (pp. 257-276). Oxford: Blackwell.

Eisenbeiss, S. (2009). Generative approaches to language learning. Linguistics, 47, 273-310.

Fernald, A., Perfors, A., & Marchman, V. (2006). Picking up speed in understanding: speech processing efficiency and vocabulary growth across the 2nd year. Developmental Psychology, 42, 98-116.

Fodor, J. & Crowther, C. (2002). Understanding stimulus poverty arguments. The Linguistic Review, 19,105-145.

Karmiloff, K., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2001). Experimental paradigms for studying language acquisition. In K. Karmiloff & A. Karmiloff-Smith, Pathways to language: From fetus to adolescence (pp. 10-42). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lany, J., & Saffran, J. R. (2013). Statistical learning mechanisms in infancy. In J. Rubenstain & P. Rakic (Eds.), Comprehensive developmental neuroscience: Neural circuit development and function in the brain, vol. 3 (pp. 231-248). New York: Academic Press.

Lieven, E. (2006). Language development: Overview. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (pp. 376-391). Amsterdam/Boston: Elsevier.

McClelland, J. L., & Patterson, K. (2002). Rules of connections in past-tense inflections: What does the evidence rule out? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 465-472.

Marcus, G. (1996). Why do children say 'breaked'? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 5, 81-85.

Meisel, J. (2004). The bilingual child. In T. K. Bhatia and W. C. Ritchie (Eds.), The handbook of bilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Pullum, G. & Scholz, B. (2002). Empirical assessment of stimulus poverty arguments. The Linguistic Review, 19, 9-50.

Radford, A. (1999). Children: architects or brickies? Proceedings of the 19th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.

Rizzi, L. 2005. On the grammatical bases of language development: a case study. In G. Cinque and R. Kayne (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saffran, J., Werker, J. A., & Werner, L. A. (2006). The infant's suditory world: Hearing, speech, and the beginnings of language. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Volume 2: Cognition, perception, and language (pp. 59-108). Hoboken, N. J.: John Wiley & Sons.

Saxton, M. (2008). What's in a name? Coming to terms with the child's linguistic environment. Journal of Child Language, 35, 677-686.

Seidenberg, M. and MacDonald, M. (1999). A probabilistic constraint approach to language acquisition and processing. Cognitive Science, 23, 569-588.

Serratrice, L., Sorace, A. and Paoli, S. (2004). Subjects and objects in Italian-English bilingual and monolingual acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 7, 183-206.

Song, H. and Fisher, C. (2007). Discourse prominence effects on 2.5-year-old children's interpretation of pronouns. Lingua, 117, 1959-1987.

Sorace, A. and Serratrice, L. (2009). Internal and external interfaces in bilingual language development: Beyond structural overlap. International Journal of Bilingualism, 13, 195-210.

Stager, C. L., & Werker, J. F. (1997). Infants listen for more phonetic detail in speech perception than in word-learning tasks. Nature, 388, 381-382.

Stoel-Gammon, C., & Sosa, A. (2009). Phonological development. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of language development (pp. 238-256). Oxford: Blackwell.

Swingley, D., & Aslin, R. (2002). Lexical neighborhoods and the word-form representations of 14-month-olds. Psychological Science, 13, 480-484.

Theakston, A., Lieven, E. and Tomasello, M. (2003). The role of the input in the development of third person singular verbs in English. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 46, 863-877.

Trueswell, J., Sekerina, I., Hill, N., & Logrip, M. (1999). The kindergarten-path effect: studying on-line sentence processing in young children. Cognition, 73, 89-134

Valian, V. and Casey, L. (2003). Young children's acquisition of wh-questions: the role of structured input. Journal of Child Language, 30, 117-143.

Vihman, M. (forthcoming). Infant vocal production. In M. Vihman, Phonological development: The origins of language in the child (second edition). Oxford: Blackwell.

Vouloumanos, A., & Werker, J. F. (2007). Listening to language at birth: Evidence for a bias for speech in neonates. Developmental Science, 10, 159-171.

Waxman, S. R., & Lidz, J. L. (2006). Early word learning. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Volume 2: Cognition, perception, and language (pp. 299-335). Hoboken, N. J.: John Wiley & Sons.

Yang, C. (2004). Universal Grammar, statistics, or both? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 451-456.

Yang, C. (2010). Who's afraid of George Kingsley Zipf? (Submitted).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Written communication

Data processing and quantitative analysis
Additional Class Delivery Information Attend all lectures as scheduled
Keywordslanguage acquisition,learning,development,infants,children
Course organiserDr Mitsuhiko Ota
Tel: (0131 6)50 3949
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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