Course Syllabus


Spring 2022


INSTRUCTOR:  Prof. Karin Stromswold (

LECTURES:  Mondays & Thursday, 10:20 AM - 11:40 AM in SEC 220



This course explores the cognitive and neural bases of language learning.  The underlying question this course seeks to address is: why is learning  a language "child's play" for most children? Why can most children learn languages just by hearing them, whereas most adults (and even the world's most powerful computer) struggle to learn new languages even with intensive instruction? To what extent do children learn different aspects of language (sounds, meaning, sentences etc) in similar ways?  What are the environmental, cognitive, and neural factors that allow children to master a language, and how can differences in these factors result in atypical language development? Lastly, what can language development tell us about the structure of language and its cognitive and neural bases?


The course will address these questions and other questions through an exploration of the following topics:

Topic 1: Introduction

Topic 2: Phonological development

Topic 3: Lexical development

Topic 4: Morphological development

Topic 5: Syntactic development 

Topic 6: Pragmatic development

Topic 7: Acquisition of signed languages

Topic 8: Language learnability theory

Topic 9: Bilingualism  & second language acquisition

Topic 10: The neural bases of language acquisition

Topic 11: Atypical language acquisition

For more details, see attached syllabus



Course Summary:

Date Details Due