Development and Disorders of Language in Children


This module will focus on contemporary theories and research on language development, including atypical language development.

As language development needs to be measured against the fully functional language of adults, it will cover the relationships between theories of child language and theories of adult language processing.

We will discuss more traditional methodologies as well as modern technologies and how both have led to theoretical advances.

The module will focus on both cognitive and social aspects of language development. It will not concern the diagnosis or treatment of language disorders.

Topics covered include:

  • Linguistic background
  • Milestones of language development
  • Biological basis of language (eg FOXP2 gene, language in chimpanzees and bonobos)
  • Prelinguistic communication (Child Directed Speech, joint attention)
  • Phonological development (infant speech perception, vocalisation/babbling)
  • Early word recognition and early word productions
  • Acquisition of word meaning, meaning constraints, noun versus verb learning
  • Language morphology (common research methods, types of morphologically complex words, dual route versus single route accounts)
  • Syntax
  • Communicative competence and autism
  • SLI and Williams Syndrome
  • Exam preparation


  • Lectures: 1 x 2 hours
  • 9 x 1 hour
  • 1 x 1 hour (exam review)
  • Seminars: 9 x 1 hour
  • Office hours: 10 x 1 hour


  • Essay (40%, presentation and critical evaluation of 2-3 research articles on typical or atypical language development in children)
  • Examination (60%, 7-8 short answers)

Please note that the format of papers in the supplementary examinations may differ from the equivalent main examination paper or class test. Re-sit and deferral students should check the details of the assessment format of supplementary examinations with the Module Leader.

Key skills

  • Written and oral communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical review of research articles
  • Analysis and interpretation
  • Gathering information
  • Information integration