Language Acquisition

The acquisition of language is ‘the greatest intellectual feat any of us is ever required to perform’ (Bloomfield, 1933)



How we acquire language is still one of the greatest biological accomplishments in human history. Language is part of what makes us human: no other species can develop language to represent actions, objects, feelings and ideas but most young children make it look easy!
All of us have managed to acquire language, it is the reason why you can read the words in this passage and hopefully extract meaning from it!

If you have ever tried to learn a second language, you will know the effort it takes to try and understand the new vocabulary, sentence structure and grammatical rules. It can take many years to become fluent in another language, so how is it that most children seem to be pretty accurate by the time they leave nursery?

It is these kinds of questions that still manage to leave experts pondering. Language acquisition is one of the most passionately deliberated branches of linguistics, incorporating ideas from multiple fields including biology, psychology and philosophy.


Studying language acquisition is nothing new- Plato and the Sanskrit Grammarians had an interest in the origins of human knowledge and understanding thousands of years ago!


You may have learned about Language Acquisition in your A Level studies. Considering Language Acquisition within Linguistics is a completely refreshing method of studying the development of children: we take the many fields of linguistics and try to apply them to a child learning language.

One of the keyways to grasp language acquisition is the terminology, you can learn the lingo in our glossary here.

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