24.947 | Spring 2013 | Graduate

Language Disorders in Children


Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 1 session / week; 2.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Goals

By focusing on a select set of papers, I hope to provide the class with an in-depth appreciation and understanding of the issues, problems puzzles and questions involved in the study of language disorders in young children. These include, although not limited to:

  • The role of a domain specific language faculty
  • How does the understanding of language disorders in children inform us about the human capacity for language?
  • The relationship between theory and empirical study
  • The difference between a language and a speech disorder
  • What is the precise nature of the language / speech disorder?
  • What is “typical” language development?
  • What are our assumptions about what develops in the language acquisition process?
  • How do we identify “atypical” language development?
  • Definitions and models of language disorders in children
  • What is an initial state? What is an end state for language development?
  • Are there critical or sensitive periods for language learning and development?
  • What cognitive changes occur in the human organism over time?
  • Do these changes impact the language faculty?
  • Language disorders in multilingual children
  • Brain imaging studies and what they suggest

I also hope to provide an appreciation and understanding of experimental designs. What constitutes a good design? How does one control for certain factors? What are possible confounds? How does one evaluate empirical results? How does one translate a theoretical claim into an experimental hypothesis?

In addition, I would like to have the class develop an understanding of the manner in which different types of experimental methodologies evaluate developing linguistic competence in distinct but complementary ways.

Finally, I hope that by the end of the class, students will not only have developed a critical understanding of the issue in language acquisition and disorders but will also be able to apply these critical skills to the study of other domains of linguistics and cognitive science.


I would like to have the class, as much as possible, be conducted as a seminar. Please read the assigned readings. I encourage everyone to participate by asking questions, sharing their own experiences and observations, objecting to interpretations, formulating new hypotheses, making predictions, etc., etc. All input is welcomed!!!


Class assignments are detailed in the Assignments section.


For each class, one student will prepare a summary of the day’s readings. In addition, where appropriate, the student will prepare a proposal for an experimental study related to the topic at hand. During class, we will discuss the readings and the proposed experiment. This discussion will be co-led by me along with the student moderator.

Class readings are detailed in the Readings section.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights