First Language Acquisition
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-DGCN18
Credits (ECTS)6
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Cognitive Neuroscience;
dr. M.E. Broersma
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. J.P.M. Fikkert
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. J.P.M. Fikkert
Other course modules lecturer
dr. T.M. Snijders
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
SEM2  (05/02/2018 to 13/07/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
Mastering a first language is one of the most striking achievements of human development. This course provides an introduction to theory, empirical findings, and research methods in the study of language acquisition. This course comprises two parts. After a general introduction into the field, we will focus on the acquisition of word level structure: sound structure, morphology and the acquisition of the lexicon and the acquisition of higher-level structure: information structure, syntax, and the syntax-semantics interface. In both parts there will be substantial attention to children's online processing.
Acquisition of sound structure, morphology and the lexicon. During the first year of life infants become increasingly sensitive to language-specific features of the sound system of their native language. We review segmental, phonotactic, and prosodic aspects of phonological acquisition, and examine the research paradigms used to investigate infant and child speech perception. The results from perception studies are compared to those from production studies. Production studies show that there is a continuum between babbling and early words in terms of motor skills, but cognitive factors and the acquisition of a lexicon come into play too as children build their phonological systems.

The acquisition of information structure, syntax and the syntax-semantic interface: The second part focuses on first language acquisition and the development of grammatical processing mechanisms. We will examine research on first language acquisition and children's sentence processing, and ask what the relationship is between the development of grammatical competence and the development of processing mechanisms/strategies; how L1 parsing procedures develop; and how children process sentences in comparison to adults.

Studies investigating children's real-time language processing have until recently been rare in comparison to studies of children's production and ultimate interpretation of language. This is surprising given the arguably crucial role that processing mechanisms may play in language development. In this course, the aim is to provide an overview on the topic of developmental psycholinguistics.

Additional comments
COURSE: February 6– April 12, 2018; Tuesday and Thursday 13.45-15.30
LOCATION: t.b.a.

Test information
TYPE OF EXAM: assignments and research proposals
NOTE: enrollment for a course automatically registers you for its exam. If you don't want to do the first exam you have to deregister for the exam in OSIRIS, but do not forget to sign up for the retake in OSIRIS.via STUDENT PORTAL until 5 working days before the start of the course.
This course is for CNS students only. Non-CNS students can contact Ellen Janssen ( or Arno Koning (

Contact information
Prof. dr. J. Fikkert

Required materials
Course material
Lecture notes
Literature will be provided on Blackboard. Representative readings

Recommended materials
Christophe, A., Millotte, S., Bernal, S. & Lidz, J. (2008). ‘Bootstrapping lexical and syntactic acquisition'.Language & Speech 51: 61-75.
Fikkert, P. (2007). Acquiring phonology In: Paul de Lacy (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology, Cambridge University Press. 537-554.
Gerken, LouAnn (2002). 'Early sensitivity to linguistics form'. Annual Review of Language Acquisition 2: 1-36.
Sheedan & Mills (2008). ‘The effects of early word learning on brain development'. In Friederici & Thierry (eds.), Early Language Development. John Benjamins. 161-190.
Trueswel, J. & L. Gleitman (2005). ‘Children's Eye Movements during Listening: Developmental Evidence for a Constraint-Based Theory of Sentence Processing'. Chapter 10 in: J.M. Henderson & F. Ferreira (Eds.)Interface of Vision, Language & Action.

Instructional modes
Class discussion
Attendance MandatoryYes

Lab visits
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Student assignments
Attendance MandatoryYes

assignments and research proposals
Test weight1
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2