Language learning (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Serena Dal Maso
Serena Dal Maso
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
II semestre (Lingue e letterature straniere) dal Feb 15, 2021 al May 29, 2021.

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students are expected to: - acquire general knowledge on linguistic development and understand the fundamental milestones of L1 and L2 acquisition; - apply the tools for linguistic analysis in order to recognize and discuss the main phenomena characterizing L1 and L2 acquisition process at different levels of analysis (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon); - develop critical judgments about the interpretations provided within the different theoretical frameworks for the acquisition and learning mechanisms.


The course will introduce to the basic notions of language acquisition studies such as spontaneous and guided learning, learning vs. acquisition, input and intake, different input types (authentic input, modified input, motherese, foreigner talk), sequences of acquisition, etc. Methodological aspects will also be discussed, with specific reference to on-line and off-line tasks.
The course will then present in a historical perspective the main theories proposed to explain L1 and L2 acquisition processes and will discuss: a) behaviorism, b) innatism and c) cognitivism. In this context, second language theories will be particularly focused, namely: Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH), Error Analysis (EA, Pitt Corder), interlanguage approach (IL, Selinker), Monitor Hypothesis (Krashen). Moreover, recent research on the role of memory in the acquisition of L1 and L2 languages and their implications on the language processing will be taken into account.
Finally, the issue of individual differences in second language learning (intelligence, language learning attitude, learning styles, personality, attitudes and motivation) will be addressed.

- The course will be taught in Italian
- Exam contents are the same for attending and non-attending students.
-There are no specific prerequisites; however, students are encouraged to attend the 'Language Learning' course after the 'General Linguistics' course because some of the basic concepts will be applied to the linguistic analysis.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Andorno C., Valentini A., Grassi R. Verso una nuova lingua. Capire l'acquisizione di una L2 UTET 2017

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam consists of a written test of 1h30 and contains approximately fifteen questions, articulated according to the following principles:
- Approximately half of the questions will test the knowledge of the main concepts presented and discussed during the course. These open questions require short and precise answers.
- The other half of the questions will access the students' ability to apply the theoretical notions to the description of typical L1 and L2 acquisition phenomena (most of them will be the exercises of recognition, description and explanation of linguistic productions) and to discuss critically and autonomously the main interpretative proposals advanced within the different theoretical approaches.

The questions will refer to all the topics mentioned in the program, both those addressed during the classes and those that are studied autonomously by the students.
The criteria on which the tests will be evaluated are:
- the substantial correctness of the responses and exhaustiveness of the content
- adequateness of the analytical skills
- expressive clarity and the capacity to discuss specific topics with appropiate technical language and specific textual competence