Skip to main content


SEL2086 : Introduction to Child and Adult Language Acquisition

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Martha Young-Scholten
  • Lecturer: Dr Cristina Dye
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To provide students with an introduction to the main theories, questions, methods of investigation, and discoveries in the two fields of a) child language development and b) adult second language acquisition.

Outline Of Syllabus

Weeks 1-5: Child language development
Theoretical questions and perspectives on child language
What needs to be acquired and the challenges facing the child
How can we investigate child language
Brain and language development
Role of nurture in language development

Weeks 6-10: Second language acquisition
Theoretical perspectives on second language acquisition
The empirical study of interlanguage
The critical period
Acquisition of phonology
Acquisition of lexicon
Acquisition of syntax
Individual differences
Social context

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion145:0045:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading165:0065:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice110:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:0020:00inc. 10 hours directed groupwork
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study124:0024:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL8643Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will present and explain theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and empirical discoveries, while the workshops will a) reinforce the lectures, b) provide students with opportunities to participate in classroom debates based on assigned readings, and c) support students in analysing (in smaller teams) a small dataset for the second language acquisition part of the module. Students will be expected to read assigned material in advance of the lectures and workshops. Private study time will be devoted to preparatory reading for both lectures and workshops.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination601M45Midterm exam to objectively test student understanding of foundational notions
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1A25Word count: 1500 words
Prof skill assessmnt1A1010% of the assessment constitutes participation in the weekly seminars accompanying the module.
Poster1M20One-hour poster display with all students in the cohort displaying their team-based posters (without actual oral presentation)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessed by an examination, seminar participation, one oral presentation on analysis of second language data (morphosyntax/syntax or phonology) and an individual data analysis exercise (on the linguistic domain not selected for the group presentation).

Written Examination
The midterm exam measures understanding of foundational concepts and facts presented during the first half (child language development) of this introductory module.

Seminar participation(professional skills assessment)
Participation takes a variety of forms, from contributing ideas to a discussion to asking the seminar leader a question, to giving a single-word answer (but necessarily require regular attendance).

Oral presentation
The presentation evaluates the ability to work as a team to collect their own or transcribe existing L2 acquisition data (using sources such as TalkBank or YouTube videos), tabulate and analyse the data and present the results as a poster. This and the lab exercise provide the basis for further work in second language acquisition, e.g. on an extended study or dissertation.

Written exercise/individual data analysis
The written exercise allows students to use skills of data analysis acquired during their group work and requires them to apply them to the domain of language they did not choose for their group presentation by accessing the same source of data as for the presentation; consideration of the same L2 speakers is allowable.
This ensures that students gain deeper knowledge in both L2 morphosyntax/syntax and phonology. The exercise also requires them to consider, in short answer form, how they would incorporate into a hypothetical study the variables presented in the Part 2 lectures and discussed in the seminars.

Study abroad alternative assessment: 100% Essay

Alternative to the 20% Poster Assessment for those unable to work in a team: a 1200-word essay using the same template as the 25% essay but unlike that essay, it will not include consideration of how the student would incorporate into a hypothetical study one or more variables presented in the Part 2 lectures and discussed in the seminars.

Reading Lists