Nature and Nurture in Second Language Acquisition

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
19 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The module explores the relative importance of nature and nurture in second language (L2) development. Through examining the L2 acquisition of specific aspects of language (e.g. words, grammar), the respective roles of input and innateness are compared and critically evaluated.

Module aims

The module aims to familiarise students with some well-known facts about how second languages are learned. The role that innate linguistic knowledge (‘nature’) plays, and the effects of input on development (‘nurture’) are examined. Theories that make use of these factors to explain how second languages are learned are evaluated.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you should be able to describe some of the ways in which learners develop knowledge of a target second language, and have a clear understanding of some of the topics which have been addressed by researchers who have studied second language learner development. You will be familiar with some of the techniques used to collect data, and you will have assessed some of the theories which have been proposed to account for second language development by researchers working within a generative paradigm.

Module information


* The nature of the task facing the (second) language learner
* How words and their parts are learned (1– uniquely identifiable)
* How words and their parts are learned (2 – meaning modifying)
* How words and their parts are learned (3- dependency marking)
* How sentence structure is learned
* How sentential meaning is learned
* Speculations, hypotheses, theories and frameworks in the investigation of SLA
* The role of input
* The effects of age on L2 learning – an introduction
* Nature and nurture in the acquisition of second languages

Learning and teaching methods

Two-hour seminar per week.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Assignment 1: 1500 Words  22/02/2021  50% 
Coursework   Assignment 2: 1500 Words  12/04/2021  50% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Florence Myles, email: fmyles@essex.ac.uk.
Florence Myles
Prof Florence Myles; Office 4.131; tel 2228; fmyles@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Sarah Ann Liszka
University of Greenwich
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 572 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
572 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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