Units of Study

LNGS2614 - Language Acquisition

Semester 2, 2012  |  Credit Points: 6

Coordinator: Dr Toni Borowsky


Around the age of two when a child knows virtually nothing at all about complex systems s/he begins to acquire and use one of the most complex of all systems: language. This is done without any formal instruction or even in many cases with any real attention being paid to it. This is a remarkable feat as anyone who has tried to learn another language can attest. How the child does this is the subject matter of this course. We will consider what it is about the human child that makes language learning possible and why dogs or chimpanzees for example do not learn language. What is the role of the child's caretaker? Do parents actually teach their children or not? Why do children babble? How do they learn not to say ungrammatical things when no one ever says them or even tells them they are impossible? When do they learn different aspects of the grammar? How do they know that you can say 'I gave the book to Mary' and 'I gave Mary the book' and 'I opened the book for Mary' but not 'I opened Mary the door'? We will look at many experimental studies illustrating the child's knowledge of complex aspects of grammar. Topics covered: innateness; maturation; topics in the acquisition of phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Each student will have first hand experience in studying the emergence of language.


3x500wd analysis assignments (30%), 1x2500wd research paper (40%), 1x2000wd exam (30%)


1x2-hr lecture/week


LNGS1001 and (one of LNGS2602, LNGS2603, LNGS3606)

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