Accessibility statement




This module will provide a review of bilingual development, from childhood to adulthood. Some of the issues to be considered are:

  • the controversy over one system vs. two in simultaneous bilingual acquisition
  • the relation between bilingualism and intelligence or cognitive processing
  • code-switching in children vs. adults
  • aspects of bilingual education and literacy

Through a combination of lectures and readings, you will become acquainted with the findings of both case studies and group studies of bilingual children and adults (but the module will not focus specifically on L2 acquisition). In addition, each student will participate in a group presentation of one academic article. This will serve to focus student attention on the style of academic papers in the area, as a model for the data-based essay, as well as providing deeper familiarity with ideas relating to the week's topic through the opportunity of presenting them to others. The main theoretical issues debated in both the popular press and the scientific literature will be considered. By the end of the course you should have a good understanding of the complex questions surrounding bilingualism and be able to critically evaluate some of the issues involved.

Note that a Research Extension module can be taken alongside this module, for students who wish to write a dissertation.

This module will be capped at 35.



  • L09C Introduction to Phonetics & Phonology (LAN00009C)
  • L11C Introduction to Syntax (LAN00011C)

Information for visiting students: Students are expected to have some experience with data analysis, whether in phonology or morphosyntax.



Contact hours

Spring term

Three hours per week, of which:

  • Two hours of lecture
  • One hour of seminar (in groups of 10-15 students).

Summer term

  • One hour of seminar per week (in groups of 10-15 students).

Teaching programme

Spring term:
Weeks 2-5  Introduction to bilingualism, language development and code switching, and familiarization with bilingual language through case study papers and data analysis. 
Weeks 7-10 Psycholinguistic and educational aspects of bilingualism.
Summer term: 
Weeks 1-4 Engaging with issues in bilingualism: Group discussions and student presentation of papers.

Teaching materials

Readings will be available through the VLE.

Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback 

Assessment and feedback

  • A 2500-word paper will be assigned, to be submitted Term 3, Week 1
    • Weight: 60%
  • This essay will involve analysis of child or adult bilingual data to be taken from the CHILDES databank or other published sources. Each student will take part in a group presentation of an academic article in one of the lecture sessions in Spring Term. These presentations will be formative only, but each group will receive feedback soon after the presentation.
  • An open examination to be submitted Term 3, Week 5
    • Weight: 40%
  • The exam will include essay questions, with some choice; the questions will be designed to cover issues and readings discussed in lectures and seminars and will emphasize integration of ideas across the module. There will be a strict page limit but open access to papers and notes.


Transferable skills developed in this module

All modules provide an opportunity to work on general oral/written communication skills (in class and in assessments) and general self management (organising your studies), alongside the specific skills in language or linguistics that the module teaches.

In addition, this module provides ample scope for the development of skills in creativity and innovation, in the open-topic data-based essay that you will write over the spring break. You will each choose a bilingual speaker’s dataset and analyse it from a perspective of your own choice. The opportunity to set your own question and find a way to answer it draws on the kind of creativity that will stand you in very good stead in the employment marketplace.

Follow this link to hear how past students use transferable skills from their degree in their current jobs.

About this module

  • Module name
  • Course code
    L25H (LAN00025H)
  • Teacher
    Marilyn Vihman
  • Term(s) taught
  • Credits