LING-451 Language Acquisition
Fall for 2017-2018

In this course we'll be surveying some of the important issues and ideas surrounding the accomplishment of an extraordinary feat––the near-effortless intellectual mastery by young children of systems so richly complex that they have so far defied precise description and modeling by computer scientists, linguists, philosophers and psychologists. We will consider at what point children are thought to know certain things about the language(s) they’re acquiring (and how we think we know this); how children learn to segment the speech stream; the use of special kinds of input modification (such as ‘motherese’) and whether/how this is helpful or necessary for language development; how children’s phonological, grammatical, lexical-semantic, and pragmatic communicative competence systems develop, the critical period hypothesis, language acquisition by Deaf children; and other topics if time permits such as L1 attrition and specific language impairment. The readings will include a mix of older, foundational readings and newer findings that address and update these ideas, as well as reflecting different approaches. There will be some emphasis on close reading and critical analysis of primary-source literature (i.e., actual acquisition studies), along with some data analysis so that you will have an opportunity to become more familiar with some of the design and experimental methods employed in language acquisition research. This course satisfies the department’s Language Learning distributional requirement for Linguistics doctoral students.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: LING-001 (Intro. to Language) or LING-401 (General Linguistics) or the equivalent
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