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

Undergraduate Course: Development of language, literacy and communication (PSYL10106)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryCommunicative abilities are a key characteristic of human psychology. This course examines the biological, cognitive and cultural factors that affect how humans learn to speak and read, with an emphasis on both typical and atypical development.
Course description The overall aim of this course is to enhance students' ability to reflect critically on research into the development of language, literacy and communication in children and young people. The course aims to help students (a) learn how to use empirical evidence to evaluate contrasting theoretical perspectives in developmental psychology and (b) understand how developmental theories and findings can be applied to educational and societal issues. These aims will be addressed by considering such issues as:
The nature of the interplay between biological and environmental influences on language development
The extent to which language development can be explained as a socially-driven phenomenon or as based on cognitive processes internal to the child
How linguistic development both influences and is influenced by other aspects of development (e.g. cognitive, social, communicative), and the implications this has for children's success in formal education
How literacy development (learning to read and write) in the school years and adulthood builds on but differs from spoken language development in the preschool years
How theoretical accounts of reading and writing difficulties can both inform and be informed by approaches to literacy instruction.

The aims and content of this course are complementary to those of Conceptual development in children: Thinking, reasoning, and social cognition.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Psychology 2A (PSYL08011) AND Psychology 2B (PSYL08012)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Research Methods and Statistics (PPLS08001) is recommended.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Psychology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To describe and evaluate contrasting theoretical accounts of language development, drawing on relevant empirical evidence.
  2. To reflect critically on implications of research on language and literacy development for educational policy and practice.
  3. To give examples of how comparisons between typical and atypical development contribute to our understanding of the nature of developmental change in language, literacy and communication abilities.
  4. To understand the complex interplay between different types of influence on development and be able to illustrate this in relation to the development of language, literacy and communication.
Reading List
Lecture 1 reading:
Setting the theoretical stage
Gleitman, L. and Newport, E. (1995). The invention of language by children: Environmental and biological influences on the acquisition of language. In L. Gleitman & M. Liberman (Eds.) An invitation to cognitive science: Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kuhl, P. (2004). Early language acquisition: cracking the speech code. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5(11):831┐843.
Fisher, S. and Marcus, G. (2006). The eloquent ape: genes, brains and the evolution of language. Nature Reviews Genetics, 7(1):9┐20.

Language creation in humans and birds
Senghas, A., Kita, S., and Ozyurek, A. (2004). Children creating core properties of language: Evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. Science, 305(5691):1779.


Feher, O., Wang, H., Saar, S., Mitra, P., and Tchernichovski, O. (2009). De novo establishment of wild-type song culture in the zebra finch. Nature, 459(7246):564┐ 568.

Language learning in unusual conditions
Bedny, M., Pascual-Leone, A., Dodell-Feder, D., Fedorenko, E., & Saxe, R. (2011). Language processing in the occipital cortex of congenitally blind adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(11), 4429-4434.

Lecture 2 reading:
Setting the theoretical stage
Bloom, P., & Markson, L. (1998). Capacities underlying word learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2(2), 67-73.
Snedeker, J. (2009). Word Learning. In L. R. Squire (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (pp. 503-508). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

Empirical work and supporting discussion
Akhtar, N., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (1996). The role of discourse novelty in early word learning. Child Development, 67(2), 635-645.
Fisher, C. (2002). Structural limits on verb mapping: the role of abstract structure in 2.5┐year┐olds┐ interpretations of novel verbs. Developmental Science, 5(1), 55-64.
Frank, M. C., Goodman, N. D., & Tenenbaum, J. B. (2009). Using speakers' referential intentions to model early cross-situational word learning. Psychological Science, 20(5), 578-585.
Halberda, J. (2003). The development of a word-learning strategy. Cognition, 87(1), B23-B34.
Woodward, A. L. (2000). Constraining the problem space in early word learning. In R.M. Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (Eds.) Becoming a word learner: A debate on lexical acquisition, 81-114. Oxford, UK: OUP

Lecture 3 reading:
Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A. & Weisleder, A. (2012). SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental Science
Hart, B., & Risley, T. 1995. Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science, 312(5782), 1900-1902.
Huttenlocher, J., Haight, W., Bryk, A., & Seltzer, M. (1991). Early vocabulary growth: relation to language input and gender. Developmental Psychology, 27, 236┐248.
Ramey, C.T., & Ramey, S.L. (2004). Early learning and school readiness: can early intervention make a difference? Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 50, 471┐491.

Lecture 4 reading:
Perfetti, C. A., Landi, N. and Oakhill, J. (2008). The acquisition of reading comprehension skill. In M. J. Snowling and C. Hulme (eds.) The Science of Reading: A Handbook. Oxford: Blackwell. (Chapter 13), doi: 10.1002/9780470757642.ch13
Snowling, M. J. and G÷bel, S. M. (2010). Reading development and dyslexia. In U. Goswami (ed.) The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development, Second edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (Chapter 20)
doi: 10.1002/9781444325485.ch20
Snowling, M.J. and Hulme, C. (2011). Evidence-based interventions for reading and language difficulties: Creating a virtuous circle. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 1-23.

Lecture 5 reading:
Dockrell, J. (2009). Causes of delays and difficulties in the production of written text. In R. Beard, D. Myhill, M. Nystrand and J. Riley (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Writing Development. London: Sage. (Chapter 33.) DOI: 10.4135/9780857021069
Graham, S., Gillespie, A. and McKeown, D. (2013). Writing: importance, development and instruction. Reading and Writing, 26, 1-15.
McCune, V. (2004). Development of first-year students┐ conceptions of essay writing. Higher Education, 47, 257-282.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Hugh Rabagliati
Tel: (0131 6)50 3454
Course secretaryMs Stephanie Fong
Tel: (0131 6)51 3733
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