Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

LING5440M Approaches to Linguistics and Language Acquisition

30 creditsClass Size: 36

Module manager: Clare Wright

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module explores the current fields of linguistics and language acquisition by evaluating the main branches of formal and functional linguistics, including generative, cognitive and functional linguistics. Attention is paid to differences both among and within these approaches. The approaches are also explored in terms of their understanding of language acquisition. Attention is paid to the range of options in research methodology that are relevant for different approaches to linguistics. The module requires extensive reading of primary sources in linguistics and language acquisition.


The aim of this module is to present a critical overview of the current field of linguistics and the subfield of language acquisition. This is done by evaluating the main branches of formal and functional linguistics. Starting with the academic context from which current theories have arisen historically attention is paid to mainstream generative, cognitive and functional linguistics, with reference to differences among these approaches. In addition to the main principles of each approach, we study how each theory views language acquisition. Another main focus is to explore how choices of research method connect with the theoretical concerns of each theory. The overall aim is for students to develop a critical awareness of the formal study of language and the range of theories which currently exist to explain linguistic properties as currently understood.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should:
1. know the range of mainstream approaches to linguistics well enough to identify how they differ and how they overlap
2. understand the relationship between language acquisition theory and linguistic theory
3. be able to connect different linguistic approaches with specific theoretical questions
4. understand how and why different linguistic theories have developed
5. have an appreciation for the process of theory building, and how current understanding relates to context, both historically and in the present

Skills outcomes
This module develops students’ skills in:
1. reading critically, both primary and secondary sources in linguistics
2. identifying the theoretical stance of primary sources in linguistics and understand how specific findings contribute to the larger aims of the theory
3. reading and making sense of findings from empirical studies in language acquisition, including an understanding of the conceptual import of statistics within these studies
4. articulating a logical argument in support of at least one of the mainstream approaches to linguistics, with both conceptual and empirical evidence


This module familiarises students with structuralist approaches to linguistics and behaviourist approaches to psychology, and then covers major aspects of Chomskyan generative linguistics, Hallidayan functional linguistics, and cognitive linguistics. It investigates how language acquisition is accounted for in these three main approaches to linguistics, and addresses questions of research method within each approach.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours20.00
Private study hours250.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Students are expected to devote 270 hours of independent study time to this module. Much time is needed in private study to do the reading for lectures (4-5 hours per week, for 10 weeks) and the weekly primary source reading (6-8 hours per week, for 10 weeks). Because of the daunting nature of the reading, some time is given in class for teaching students how to read and understand difficult empirical research. Other guidance is provided on the VLE. While the reading will provide a basis for the assessed essays, students are expected to explore one topic at much more depth. An estimated 100 hours are needed to do the two pieces of assessed work.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The seminars provide a forum for supporting and monitoring students’ progress. The first assignment is designed to teach and support students in essay writing as expected in linguistics and at MA level, and students receive extensive written feedback on it before they submit the second, more heavily-weighted essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Critique2,000-word critical summary33.00
Essay3,500-word essay67.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:41:34


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019