General Linguistics (p) (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Chiara Melloni
Chiara Melloni
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem 1A dal Sep 23, 2019 al Oct 31, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims to introduce the students to the fascinating domain of first language acquisition, exploring both typical and atypical development, with particular reference to specific language impairment and developmental dyslexia. The course also aims to provide the students with some fundamental knowledge concerning bilingualism, with classes dedicated to the presentation of the cognitive and linguistic profile of children who learn the second language at an early age or from birth.
After completion of the course, the students:
- will know the main stages of the language acquisition process, in typical and atypical development and in the bilingual context;
- will be able to apply the tools of linguistic analysis to recognize and describe the main phenomena that characterize language acquisition at different levels of analysis (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary);
- will be able to develop critical judgments regarding the interpretations that have been provided in the various theoretical frameworks with respect to the mechanisms of language acquisition.


This course allows you to acquire the theoretical assumptions and analytical tools to address the study of minimalist syntax, focusing on data and grammatical structures of English and Italian. Starting from the notions of linguistic categories and constituents, we will study how to represent the syntactic structure of phrases and sentences, focusing on the concept of movement. In addition, a perspective of analysis focused on the development of syntax will be offered, also considering grammar development in the case of language disorders (atypical development), and illustrating the results of the most recent experimental psycholinguistic research.

Theoretical concepts:
- Acquisition of Language and Syntax: Universal Grammar and parametric variation
- Preliminary concepts: categories and constituency tests
- The structure of the constituents and the X-bar theory
- The structure of sentences: TP and CP
- Null constituents: null subjects, null determinants, null auxiliary, null complementary
- Movement:
- head to head
- Wh movement
- a-movement

Typical and atypical development:
- verbal inflection
- sentence structure
- passive and relative clauses

Lectures and exercises. Exercises will be administered during class, and in the course of practical lessons to be held by a didactic tutor (20 extra hours). 6 classes (12 hours) will be held by a Guest Teacher, Dr. Diego Krivochen.


Radford, A (2004). Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1 to 7.

Guasti, M.T. (2016). Language Acquisition. [second edition]. Cambridge, Mass: Mit Press. [chaps. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 10. 11.]

Suggested reading:
Adger, D. (2003). Core Syntax. Oxford University Press: Oxford. [chapters 1.2.3.]

Attending and non-attending students are invited to read the detailed program and download the materials published on the e-learning page of the course.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Guasti, M.T. L'acquisizione del linguaggio. Un'introduzione Raffaello Cortina Editore 2007 978-88-6030-095-9

Assessment methods and criteria

*** ATTENTION: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and in accordance with the University of Verona guidelines, during ​the 2020 summer session the assessment modality will be modified as follows: ONLINE ORAL EXAMINATION (preferably via Zoom). However, the student is asked to keep pen and paper handy. ***

The final exam aims at assessing the theoretical knowledge acquired by the students during the course, as well as their ability to apply this knowledge to concrete linguistic phenomena.

The assessment is carried out by means of a written examination, which last 1:15 hours.

The tests consist of both open-ended and multiple-choice questions and concern all the topics in the program, both those addressed during classes and those autonomously studied by the students.

The evaluation criteria are:
- substantial correctness of the responses and exhaustiveness of the contents
- adequateness of analytical skills
- expressive clarity and argumentative skills