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Chomsky believes that a child is born with an inbuilt aptitude to acquire a language (Huck & Goldsmith, 2013). He claims that a youngster cannot understand language by listening to adults talk since the words he or she hear are insufficient to aid a child's language acquisition. He claims that the only way to explain how a child learns the complex system of language is if she or he is born with an intrinsic mechanism that aids in language comprehension. He also investigated the concept of universal grammar. Universal grammar teaches a child universal grammatical structures and language principles (Huck & Goldsmith, 2013).
Scientist indicates that there is a critical stage for the first language acquisition (Dellbrügge, 2010). This implies that there is a certain period that a child needs to be exposed to speech if he/she is to understand the language in a normal way. According to Dellbrügge (2010), if a child is not able to speak before puberty stage it might be challenging and some instances impossible to speak and comprehend language in a meaningful way. Feral cases such as Genie’s case have been in support of this hypothesis. Genie incidence is one of the most tragic cases. Genie was locked in a room by her schizophrenic father until the age of twelve years (James, 2008). During this period, she was abused and neglected. Her father was only her human contact. When she was freed, she was almost mute uttering some few words such as “no more” and “stop it” (James, 2008).
Psychologists had an interest in her and presented a good scenario for researchers to test and evaluate the critical period theory. She had already attained the puberty age when she was found; thus, if she could have been able to acquire language then the critical period hypothesis could have been proven to be untrue. Genie was starting to learn the language when she was locked in a closet. At the age of 13, what kind of language could she have learnt? Genie was shown love and exposed to various human contacts and provided with language development experts, but she did not manage to recover (James, 2008). Her language development is relatively immature despite the fact that she is mature.
During Genie’s critical period, she was not exposed to human contact. She was only talking to her dad who used to merciless bit her. She was not in a position to learn how to utter words and use those words in sentences. When she was found, her brain had already lost the capacity to understand ordinary language. Nevertheless, it profoundly significant to note that she not only suffered language deprivation during her confinement but she also underwent social deprivation. Probably social deprivation also played a substantial part in Genie’s language development. Being severely abused and neglected for several years could have led to cognitive damage.
Cues Can Educators Take from These Tragic Cases
In these tragic cases, children have been exposed to lives of social isolation with little human care and contact. In spite of the unfavorable conditions surrounding the childhood of these feral children, the challenges they encountered in their language development does not affirm the critical period theory. This hypothesis of language acquisition does confute or confirm Chomsky’s innate theory. However, it expounds on how children develop and learn the language. Whether a child learns via reinforcement or imitation if a child is not exposed to human contact or language before critical period, then he/she is developing the use of language.
Dellbrügge, K. (2010). The Critical Period Hypothesis: Support and Challenge form encounters with Feral Children. München: GRIN Verlag
Huck, G. J., & Goldsmith, J. A. (2013). Ideology and linguistic theory: Noam Chomsky and the deep structure debates. London: Routledge.
James, S. D. (2008, May 01). Grim Fate Awaits Children Held in Cellar. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4758945&page=1
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