Theories of language learning (2015/2016)

Course code
Chiara Melloni
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Teaching is organised as follows:
Activity Credits Period Academic staff Timetable
Parte I 6 Semestrino IB Chiara Melloni
Parte II 3 Semestrino IIA Maria Vender

Lesson timetable

Learning outcomes

The course is aimed to get the students acquainted with some basic topics in first language acquisition by monolingual, typically developing children. The students will be introduced to the phenomenon of early bilingualism and to the acquisition of language by linguistically impaired children (in particular, Specific Language Impairment and Developmental Dyslexia).

The course will be held in ENGLISH.


This course in organized in two parts, dealing with different topics and having a different practical organization (see the COURSE NEWS).
The first part (prof. Melloni, semester IB, 36 hours) introduces the students to the phenomenon of first language acquisition by monolingual, typically developing children. The course will cover specific aspects of language acquisition (phonology, morpho-syntax, lexicon) from newborn’s first steps in sound perception to the articulated morphosyntactic competence of children of six/seven years of age.
The second part of the course (prof. Vender, semester IIA, 18 hours) will focus on language disorders and early bilingualism. The peculiar aspects of the Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and Developmental Dyslexia will be analyzed, focusing on their distribution, manifestations and possible causes. Moreover, the course will concentrate on early bilingualism, examining both its advantages and possible disadvantages.

On L1 acquisition (prof.ssa Melloni):
Guasti, Maria Teresa (2002/2004). Language Acquisition, The Growth of Grammar. Cambridge (MA), The Mit Press. (1-6 and 11).

On bilingualism and language disorders (prof.ssa Vender):

• Grosjean, F. & Li, P. (2013). The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism. Malden, MA & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. – Chapters 1,9
• Bhatia, T. K. & Ritchie, W. C. (2012) The handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism. Malden, MA & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. – Chapter 4
• Vender, M. (in prep.) Disentangling Dyslexia. Phonological and processing impairments in Developmental Dyslexia. Chapters 1 - 2
• Belletti, A. & Guasti, M. T. (2015). The acquisition of Italian. Morphosyntax and its interfaces in different modes of acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Chapters 3 – 5.

Non-attending students can find a detailed program on the e-learning page linked to this course.

Assessment methods and criteria

written and oral examination