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ET123: First Language Acquisition


Learning a language is an amazing feat, but it is one that children seem to take in their stride and manage to do without much effort. In this module, you will learn how this happens. What comes first? How are sounds perceived and produced? How are words formed? How is meaning mapped onto sounds? When do word combinations become sentences? You will be introduced to the key concepts, terms, theories and research evidence related to the acquisition of language in children as well as relevant research methods so that you can engage with analysis of child language.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Describe and discuss theory and evidence in first language acquisition research.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of key concepts, terminology, research methods and theories of first language acquisition.
  • Describe and discuss the development of language in children, including phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic development.
  • Evaluate theoretical and empirical research in first language acquisition.
  • Discuss evidence from first language acquisition research in languages other than English and in specific circumstances

Learning Experience


Core content will be presented during weekly 2-hour lectures.


We will meet in a weekly 1-hour small-group seminar to practice and apply course concepts.



2000 word assignment (60%)


2-hour written examination (40%)

Preparatory Reading

  • Clarke, E. (2009). First language acquisition. Second edition. Cambridge: CUP.

Academic Staff

Clay Beckner