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LING317 Child and Adult Language Development

Comparison of processes, research, and theories of child first-language and adult second-language development to determine their similarities and differences.

Many people believe that children learn languages better than adults, yet adults appear to have better cognitive abilities, emotional control, and motivational regulation than children, all of which are associated with better learning. What do we mean by 'better'? What do we mean by 'learn'? What evidence supports the idea that either children or adults learn better? This paper explores these issues by addressing three topics in both first and second language development: the initial conditions that exist in language development; the roles of input and interaction in development; and the nature of language systems and learner processes in development.

Paper title Child and Adult Language Development
Paper code LING317
Subject Linguistics
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $886.35
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,766.35

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18 200-level LING points
LING 318, LING 319
Schedule C
Arts and Music

Suitable for students taking the Linguistics major, TESOL minor or the Graduate Diploma in Second Language Teaching


Teaching staff

Dr Anne Feryok

Paper Structure

This is a 'flipped' paper based around the principle that asking questions, answering them, and teaching others is a more effective way to learn than solely through lectures. Core concepts and a framework for examining them are covered in lectures during one-hour classes, while students collaboratively work on projects during two-hour classes. The projects are divided between first language (L1) and second language (L2) development, with students choosing which they prefer to present on for the paper. Students then learn the other type of language development from students working on the other projects. Topics cover the effects of sensitivity and social/linguistic isolation on L1 development and the effects of age and aptitude on L2 development; the roles of input and interaction in both L1 and L2 development; and the extent to which L1 development is innate or usage-based and L2 development involves implicit or explicit learning.

  • Initial conditions
  • Practice project: L1 sensitivity and isolation and L2 age and aptitude
  • Input and interaction in the linguistic environment
  • Features and functions of input
  • Interaction: necessary or optional?
  • Project 1 presentations: role of input and interaction in L1 and L2 development
  • Language systems and learner processes in linguistic development
  • L1: tune in, divide and conquer and L2: lost in a crosslinguistic puzzle
  • Identifying and measuring language development
  • L1 lexis: sudden spurt or steady growth and L2 lexis: incidental or intentional
  • Understanding and explaining development
  • L1 forms: one or two routes and L2 forms: prescribed route or purposeful path
  • Project 2 presentations: L1: innate or usage-based and L2: implicit or explicit


Clark E. (2016). First language acquisition. Cambridge University Press.


Ortega, L. (2014). Understanding second language acquisition. Hodder Education.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

  • To promote lifelong learning by being able to:
    • Transform wonder into answerable questions
    • Search for information to answer questions
    • Identify and evaluate suitability of information to answer questions
  • To promote scholarship by being able to:
    • Learn discipline-specific knowledge
    • Teach discipline-specific knowledge
  • To promote communication by being able to:
    • Prepare and summarise written reports
    • Prepare and deliver oral presentations
  • To promote critical thinking by being able to:
    • Identify and examine underlying assumptions
    • Examine and evaluate research evidence
    • Consider and evaluate different theories
  • To promote self-motivation by being able to:
    • Set goals
    • Chunk large tasks into small tasks
    • Manage time
  • To promote teamwork by being able to:
    • Develop a common aim and plan for a project
    • Negotiate tasks, deadlines, and roles in groups

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 9-16, 18-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 15:00-15:50 10-13, 16, 18-19