Iulia Elena GÎȚĂ
Universitatea „Lucian Blaga“ din Sibiu, Universitatea din București, Școala Doctorală de Studii Literare și Culturale
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12 / 2016
Implications for language acquisition theories: a fresh look at the “genie case”
Language is one of the classic examples of the sensitive periodicity of the brain. What it is known so far is that language has a critical period for learning. Babies and children are geniuses until they turn seven, and then there’s a systematic decline in their ability to acquire languages. One of the most fascinating examples in this regards is the case of
Genie, a young girl who for the first 13 years of her life underwent a degree of social isolation and experiential deprivation not previously reported in contemporary scientific history. A lot of laboratory work was done on this case, and linguists and scientists tries to address head-on hypothesis about language and human mind, however, new studies (2011-2015)
indicate that early speech learning is not only limited by the critical period of the first years of life, but it is also severely limited in the absence of social interaction. Moreover, by the age of 5, prior to formal schooling, studies like Patricia Kuhl’s (2011) show that brain activation in the brain areas related to language and literacy are strongly correlated with the social environment of the child’s family. Therefore, scientifically speaking, more than anything Genie’s case proved that complete lack of social interaction has a devastating impact on human language learning, to the extent that normal language skills are never acquired.
Keywords: language acquisition, Genie Case, neuroplasticity, critical period, social environment
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