First Language Acquisition
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-DGCN18
Credits (ECTS)6
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Cognitive Neuroscience;
PreviousNext 2
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
prof. dr. J.P.M. Fikkert
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. J.P.M. Fikkert
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2020
SEM2  (25/01/2021 to 16/07/2021)
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 starts with an introduction to theories of language acquisition, the empirical findings and milestones in early language perception and production, the current debates in the field, and research methods in the study of language acquisition. After a general introduction into the field, and into the methods used in the field, we will focus on several topics that currently are central to the field.
During the course you learn to critically discuss scientific papers and reflect on them; to design experiments to test questions regarding (bilingual) first language acquisition; and present a research proposal as a scientific poster. Finally, you will learn to translate current findings in language acquisition into a popular scientific blog.
Acquisition of sound structure 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 in monolingual and bilingual children; and how children process sentences in comparison to adults.
The role of sleep, adoption, brain development, and cross-linguistic differences in language acquisition will also be discussed.

Presumed foreknowledge

Test information


Assumed previous knowledge
This course is for CNS students only. Non-CNS students can contact Ellen Janssen ( or Arno Koning (

Required materials
Course material
Lecture notes. Literature will be provided on Brighspace

Recommended materials
Friederici, A. D., & Männel, C. (2014). Neural correlates of the development of speech perception and comprehension. In K. N. Ochsner, & S. M. Kosslyn (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience(pp. 171-192). New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Frank, M. C., Bergelson, E., Bergmann, C., Cristia, A., Floccia, C., Gervain, J., Hamlin, J. K., Hannon, E. E., Kline, M., Levelt, C., Lew-Williams, C., Nazzi, T., Panneton, R., Rabagliati, H., Soderstrom, M., Sullivan, J., Waxman, S., & Yurovsky, D. (2017). A collaborative approach to infant research: Promoting reproducibility, best practices, and theory-building. Infancy, 22(4), 421-435. doi:10.1111/infa.12182. Link:
Ambridge, B., & Lieven, E.V.M. (2015). A Constructivist account of child language acquisition. In B. MacWhinney and W. O'Grady (Eds). Handbook of Language Emergence. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell. (pp. 478-510).

Instructional modes
Class discussion
Attendance MandatoryYes

Lab visits
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Lectures, class discussion, student assignments, lab visits.

Student assignments
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight25
Test typeAssignment
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2

NOTE: enrollment for a course automatically registers you for its exam. For participating in the retake, register again.

Test weight30
Test typeReport
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2

Research proposal/poster presentation
Test weight45
Test typePresentation
OpportunitiesBlock SEM2, Block SEM2

NOTE: enrollment for a course automatically registers you for its exam. For participating in the retake, register again.