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LING318 Child Language

By age five, children have acquired the essentials of their mother tongue. This paper examines the processes of first language acquisition, and its relevance to linguistic theory.

Language is an incredibly complicated system. Natural speech can have three syllables a second; words number in the tens or hundreds of thousands; and the grammar baffles the greatest computer translation systems. Yet children of the age of six, who cannot yet tie their shoelaces, master the core of language system sufficiently to communicate with others. How do they do it? This paper looks at how children learn language, the stages they go through and the theories that try to explain the amazing achievement.

Paper title Child Language
Paper code LING318
Subject Linguistics
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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One 200-level LING paper
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Teaching Arrangements
Dr Hatfield runs all lectures and tutorials.
Eve Clark, 2009. First Language Acquisition, 3rd Edition, Cambridge University Press.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Communication, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
The paper is based around the principle that asking questions, answering them and teaching others is a more effective way to learn than lectures. Skills we focus on from the graduate profile then include: Teamwork, Self-Motivation, Communication and Lifelong Learning.
Teaching staff
Dr Hunter Hatfield
Paper Structure
We learn from doing, not listening. Based on such a principle, this paper is organised around student-lead group research. You will, with a small number of cohorts, research questions about how children learn to speak and understand language, teach each other what you have learned and then teach the entire class what you have learned. Because of this structure, the lecturer will lecture less than half of the class meetings. When Dr Hatfield does lecture, its purpose is to set up your work. Previous years have shown that students find such a structure more helpful in the long-term than a paper built upon simply memorising material given by a lecturer or text. Assessment is based upon group notebooks, research essays and presentations.

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Tuesday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 15-22
Thursday 15:00-15:50 9-13, 15-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
T1 Friday 12:00-12:50 10-12, 17-21