Wild & Isolated Children & The Critical Age Issue Lec. 6 Language & human beings Is language as natural to human beings as walking and smiling? Are children able to produce and comprehend language without experiencing language? Is there an age beyond which a person is unable to learn a first or a second language? What happens when children grow up with little human contact, or no love? Wild & isolated children There have been a number of reported cases of children raised by wolves, dogs, pigs, sheep, and other animals. These children are known as wild or feral children. And, there are cases of children who have been kept in confinement or isolation by their parents or others, and consequently were not exposed to language. Reported cases of wild& isolated children Victor: the wild boy of Aveyron Reported cases of wild& isolated children Genie: raised in isolation Helen Keller: the renowned deaf & blind girl A critical age for first-language learning Why did Helen fully learn language, while Vector and Genie didn’t? Without exposure to language, children will not acquire language. Children need some form of exposure, in the form of speech, signs, writing, or touch, before language learning can occur and that exposure should be offered as early as possible in the child’s life. A critical age for first-language learning Two major factors governing language learning 1. The age at which exposure to language began, and 2. 2. the extent of any physical, psychological, and social trauma prior to exposure to language A critical age for first-language learning The critical period hypotheses The belief that the ability to learn language declines with increasing age. 1. Certain biological events related to language development can only happen in an early critical period. 2. Certain linguistic events must happen to the child during this period for development to proceed normally.