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Course Information

Instructor Info:Joanna Morris
Office Extension x5462
TA Info:Russell Cavallaro
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222

This course will examine language learning from a cognitive perspective and consider the relative contributions of genetics and environment to the process of language acquisition. In the course we will examine how children learn words, how they learn to put words together to form sentences and how they learn to use language appropriately in social situations. We will look at children learning two or more languages simultaneously and at children who, in very rare cases, have been altogether deprived of language. We will look at language learning under conditions of significant environmental deprivation such as when children are born blind or deaf and also look at language learning in children with cognitive impairments such as those born with William's syndrome. Time permitting, we will discuss clinical conditions in which there is significant involvement of the language system such as autism, and childhood aphasia. The course will emphasize reading and discussion of primary literature.

Course Objectives:

(1) Demonstrate an understanding of the major psychological approaches to the study of language acquisition.

(2) Demonstrate an understanding of the major problems investigated by language acquisition researchers.

(3) Know the history of the study of language acquisition and the major contributors to the field.

(4) Be conversant in the unique language of the field of language acquisition.

(5) Demonstrate an understanding of the methodology of psychological investigation and its limitations.

(6) Be able to access, critically read, and evaluate the primary literature in the field of language acquisition.

Evaluation Criteria:

Students are required to attend class, participate in discussions, take notes when necessary, do assigned readings, and complete all assignments. If a class is missed, students are responsible for the material covered. The required assignments MUST be submitted in order to receive an evaluation in this course. Any student who does not complete all assignments in a timely fashion, will not receive an evaluation for the course.


Additional Info:

Expectations of work completed outside the classroom:

In this course, students are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week of preparation and work outside of class time.

All work should be submitted via the course website (instructions will be provided). Except in exceptional circumstances, I WILL NOT ACCEPT E-MAILED WORK.

Weekly Assignments

You will have several short answer assignments due throughout the semester. These assignments will be based on the reading, and they are designed to allow me to evaluate your comprehension of the material.


You are required to write a research proposal that consists of two parts. The first part is a 5-page literature review on any topic of your choice as long as it is related to the subject matter of the course. Your review should be be organized around, and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing. You should (a) synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known (b) identify areas of controversy in the literature and (c) formulate questions that need furtherresearch.

The second part is an experimental design. You will choose one of the questions that you previously identified as needing further research and then design a study to examine that particular question. In this part you will formulate a specific hypothesis, and discuss how the data you might collect would support or disprove your hypothesis. The research proposal is thus a rewrite of your mid-semester paper, plus the experimental design/

The literature review is due on October 10, and the final proposal, consisting of a rewrite of the literature review plus the experimental design is due on the last day of classes, December 10.

Incomplete Policy

Faculty are not obligated to negotiate an incomplete. In those cases where a student has requested and the faculty member agrees that an incomplete is appropriate, that information must be recorded no later than the course completion summary deadline for that semester.

To record an incomplete, both student and faculty member will fill out the appropriate form to record the new negotiated deadline by which the student will complete all remaining work for the course. That date will not exceed the first day of the spring semester for a fall incomplete, and June 30th for a spring incomplete.

If the negotiated deadline passes without the faculty member receiving and recording the completed work from the student, the incomplete will be converted to a "No Evaluation." Faculty have one month from the negotiated date to evaluate the work.

Students experiencing exceptional circumstances that could make it difficult to adhere to any part of this policy should immediately be referred to CASA for assistance with accommodating circumstances

Plagiarism Policy

All Hampshire College students and faculty, whether at Hampshire or at other institutions, are bound by the ethics of academic integrity. The entire description and college policy can be found in Non Satis Non Scire at under Academic Policies/Ethics of Scholarship. Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s work as one’s own. Both deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentations of another’s work as your own are considered plagiarism and are serious breaches of academic honesty and integrity. All sources used or consulted in the process of writing papers, examinations, preparing oral presentations, course assignments, artistic productions, and so on, must be cited. Sources include material from books, journals or any other printed source, the work of other students, faculty, or staff, information from the Internet, software programs and other electronic material, designs and ideas.

All cases of suspected plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Advising who will review documentation and meet with student and faculty member. Individual faculty, in consultation with the Dean of Advising, will decide the most appropriate consequence in the context of the class. This can range from revising and resubmitting an assignment to failing the course. Beyond the consequence in the course, CASA considers first offenses as opportunities for education and official warning. Multiple or egregious offenses will have more serious consequences. Suspected instances of other breaches of the ethics of academic integrity, such as the falsification of data, will be treated with the same seriousness as plagiarism and will follow the same process.

Course Textbook

Saxton, M. (2010). Child Language: Acquisition and Development. Sage: London.