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First and second language acquisition - LAN00092M

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Heather Marsden
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module introduces the fields of first and second language acquisition research, including research methods, data, and theory. The module focuses on the acquisition of phonology and syntax, beginning with language development in babies and children, then focusing on acquisition of second or subsequent languages in adults.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The module provides:

  • an overview of child first language acquisition, focusing on phonology and syntax

  • an overview of key topics in second language acquisition of phonology and syntax

  • an introduction to theories of first and second language acquisition

  • opportunities to deepen understanding of a range of research methods in language acquisition

  • opportunities to develop understanding of data reporting

  • opportunities to develop written and oral presentation skills

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Explain the key aspects of the typical sequence of child language development in the areas of phonology and syntax;

  • Articulate and discuss key issues in second language acquisition research;

  • Explain and critically evaluate the techniques used in studying language development;

  • Engage with and analyse language acquisition data and general issues of linguistic competence/performance and cognition in general;

  • Explain and evaluate the role of linguistic theory in developing accounts of language acquisition.

Academic and graduate skills

  • Students will practise the following skills during this module: academic writing, analytic reasoning, understanding experiment design, reading and interpreting statistical data.

Module content

The first half of the module will focus on first language acquisition and the second half on second language acquisition.


Task Length % of module mark
Language acquisition essay
N/A 70
Language acquisition general audience report
N/A 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Language acquisition essay resit
N/A 70
Language acquisition report resit
N/A 30

Module feedback

Feedback on Formative assignments provided within two weeks

Feedback on Summative assignment provided within the University’s 25-day marking deadline

Indicative reading

Textbook and handbook readings are recommended, to support the lecture content. Primary research articles are assigned for critical reading and discussion in seminars. For example:

Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Stringer, D. (2017). Unconventional expressions: Productive syntax in the L2 acquisition of formulaic language. Second Language Research, 33, 61-90.

Gavarró, A., Leela, M., Rizzi, L., & Franck, J. (2015). Knowledge of the OV parameter setting at 19 months: Evidence from Hindi–Urdu. Lingua, 154, 27-34.

Saville-Troike, M. (2006). The linguistics of second language acquisition. Chapter 3 in Introducing second language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 31–65.

Vihman, M. M. (2018) First word learning. In Shirley-Ann Rueschmeyer & Gareth Gaskell (eds) Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.