This paper is available for the academic year 2016-17.
In this course we will explore issues in both first and second language acquisition. The general question we are asking is what we know when we know a language and how we get there. Language acquisition has been studied from many different perspectives and the different perspectives lead to different areas of acquisition being researched more or less in depth. This course will provide an overview of issues studied in the various approaches, thereby giving a comprehensive introduction to the domain of language acquisition.
The first term will be devoted to generative approaches and the second one to functional and cognitive approaches to language acquisition.
Characteristic of the generative approach is an innateness assumption triggered by the observation that exposure to the input alone cannot explain the acquisition process. The basic question is how children come to have the knowledge of language they have, given that the input is both under-informative (not all possible expressions are represented) and over informative (it contains a lot of irrelevant information for a learner). We will then explore how the process of second language acquisition compares to the acquisition of a first language, trying to identify what exactly is the task for a second language learner and how learners solve it.
Characteristic of functional and cognitive approaches is the idea that language is communication. As a result, understanding language acquisition implies understanding human communication. The main question, as for the generative approach, is: what information do learners use in order to acquire language. Different from the generative approach are the basic assumptions. It is not excluded in these approaches that learners acquire language purely from the input, as long as the input is provided in optimal communicative contexts for learning.
Note: a solid footing in linguistics is necessary to follow this course. Particularly the generative approach is strongly syntax-oriented and requires, therefore, background knowledge: you should have followed at least Li2. If you haven´t done Li2, you are strongly advised to work through the Li2 materials available online. Having followed Li9 or following it in parallel should be very helpful.
The following are suggestions for additional background readings on basic linguistic concepts and on syntax, which are necessary for following this course.
Baker, A. & K. Hengeveld. 2011. Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.
Radford, A., M. Atkinson, D. Britain, H. Clahsen & A. Spencer. 1999. Linguistics. An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yule, G. 2014. The study of language. 5th ed. Cambridge: CUP.
Carnie, A. 2013. Syntax. A generative introduction. 3rd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.
Haegemann, L. 2005. Thinking syntactically. A guide to argumentation and analysis. Wiley-Blackwell.
Radford, A. 2004. Minimalist Syntax. Exploring the structure of English. Cambridge: CUP.
Introduction to the generative approach to acquisition.
What we know when we know a language and how we get there.
|Two||Early two-word combinations and the initial stage in first language acquisition|
|Three||The arrival of morphology and syntax|
|Five||Second language acquisition: the task and the initial state|
|Six||The development of sentence structure in second language acquisition|
|Seven||Optionality in second language acquisition|
|Eight||What is learnable in a second language? Features and feature learning|
|One||Introduction to the course and Babbling|
|Two||Gestures and First Words|
|Three||Early two-word Combinations and Word-order|
|Four||Morphology and Narratives|
|Five||Vocabulary Acquisition in Second Language Acquisition|
|Six||Morpheme Order Studies in L2 Acquisition|
|Seven||The Acquisition of Syntax in L2 Acquisition: the “ESF” Project|
|Eight||Linguistic Relativity or “Thinking for Speaking” and its Impact on L2 Acquisition|
Relevant reading lists will be available from Moodle.
You will receive sixteen lectures in total, eight in Michaelmas Term and eight in Lent Term. You will also have eight supervisions, normally three during Michaelmas Term, four in Lent Term and one in Easter Term. The Department will also be providing four hours of practical classes.
Dr Tresa Parodi