Given that language is a sub-system of mind, research on how humans acquire language is a major aspect of the study of knowledge acquisition, and a branch of cognitive science. Research on how Chinese speakers acquire their native languages forms an essential component of the cognitive study of the languages of China. The Language Acquisition Laboratory (LAL) was established in early 2006 to promote the theoretical study of language acquisition and empirical research on the acquisition of Chinese languages.
The laboratory studies the development of language in the individual, combining methods of naturalistic observation with experimental techniques. It investigates the language competence of toddlers and preschool children, focusing on early lexicon, syntax and semantics. The laboratory addresses issues of language learnability, integrating language acquisition with linguistic theory, studying language learning from a perspective which is informed by developments in linguistics and other areas of cognitive science. Special attention is devoted to cross-dialectal and cross-linguistic variation in child language viewed from the perspective of parameter theory.
Recent projects have been concerned with issues of lexical spurt, overextension and basic-level categories in early lexicon; the onset of syntactic categories, word order, and argument structure; the quantificational competence of young children with respect to classifiers, quantifiers, and negation; pitch and tone in early phonetic perception and production; and acquisition of vowel length.