Language Acquisition and Language Impairment


a) Deepen knowledge on theoretical models of language acquisition and properties of linguistic development in different grammar components.
b) Develop the ability to reflect on how data from typical and atypical language development provide evidence for the modularity of the grammatical system and for the discussion of theoretical hypotheses on the functioning of language.
c) Develop the ability to reflect on how linguistic theoretical hypotheses enable a better characterization of language disorders.
d) Develop the ability to compare the acquisition of different structures in different languages and in different populations, and identify common and specific processes of language development.
e) Identify child language disorders and clinical markers for child language impairment.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria Fernandes Homem de Sousa Lobo Gonçalves


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language



Available soon


  • Bishop, D. & L. Leonard (eds.) 2000. Speech and Language Impairments in Children. Causes, Characteristics, Intervention and Outcome. London/New York: Psychology Press;
  • Fletcher, P. & B. MacWhinney (eds.) 1995. The Handbook of Child Language. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers;
  • Freitas, M. J. & A.L. Santos, orgs. 2017. A aquisição de língua materna e não materna. Questões gerais e dados do Português. Textbooks in Language Sciences. Berlim: Language Science Press.;
  • Goodluck, H. 1991. Language Acquisition. A Linguistic Introduction. Oxford/Cambridge: Blackwell;
  • Guasti, M.T. 2017. Language Acquisition. The Growth of Grammar. Cambridge, London: MIT Press, 2ª edição;
  • Lust, B. 2006. Child Language. Acquisition and Growth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;
  • Lust, B & C. Foley (eds.). 2004. First Language Acquisition. The Essential Readings. Blackwell Publishing;
  • Schwartz, R.G. (ed.) 2009. Handbook 

Teaching method

Classes include a theoretical and a practical component, with explanatory classes, child data analysis and discussion of scientific papers.

Evaluation method

A review of a scientific paper.(30%), Analysis of child data.(30%), Final exercise with research questions that cover different topics of the seminar.(40%)

Subject matter

Different topics related to language acquisition, contrasting typical and atypical populations, will be explored. Topics include:
1. Review of the main theoretical models of language acquisition and of the way they consider the role of the input and individual internal mechanisms;
2. Identification of the developmental stages in typically developing children in different grammar components (phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics-pragmatics;
3. Child language disorders:
3.1. Typology;
3.2. Characterization of Language-Specific Disorder;
3.4 Possible clinical markers and crosslinguistic differences;
3.3. Modular development of language components and selectivity of the impaired structures;
3.5. Comparing the acquisition of specific structures in different populations (developmental language disorder, autism, Down syndrome), in the morphosyntactic and pragmatic domains.