Language Is What Makes Us Human

Topics: Linguistics, Second language acquisition, Case study Pages: 4 (1214 words) Published: February 18, 2007
Language is what makes us as humans unique; it differentiates us from primates. Generally it is acquired in childhood and is developed throughout our lives. Yet what would happen if language was not acquired in childhood? Lennberg (1967: as cited in Grimshaw, Adelstein, Bryden & MacKinnon, 1998).) claims that there is a critical period for when language must develop, (after infancy and before puberty) otherwise it will never reach its potential. Using this as a basis for the question can language be developed after puberty, I intent to argue that although language comprehension can be acquired after puberty, complete language development can not be achieved; using case studies such as Genie (Fromkin, Krashen, Curtiss, Rigler & Rigler, 1974) and E.M (Grimshaw et al, 1998).

Genie's (Grimshaw et al, 1998) background is extremely tragic. From around the age of 20 months until her rescue at the age of 13 years and nine months (the entirety of the critical period) she was isolated in a box type room (Fromkin et al, 1974). She was physically punished if she made any noise and received no communication other than the occasional bark from her father or brother.

When admitted to hospital, Kent (1972; as cited by Fromkin et al, 1974) Genie was described as a mute and totally unresponsive, but within a short space of time, Genie not only began to respond but also to imamate others, this indicates that Genie understood that language could be used as a way of communication. Despite intensive therapy Genie never managed to detect phonological (differences in words such as hair and hare) and syntactic (speech patterns) relationships (Fromkin et al, 1974.)

Lennenberg claimed that it is language which allowed our brain to become lateralised. (Grimshaw et al, 1998) Studies such as Papcun, Krashen, Terbeek, Remington, & Harshman, (1974) show language is more associated with the left hemisphere. This could suggest that the left hemisphere has to be linguistically...

References: Fromkin, V., Krashen, S., Curtiss, S., Rigler, D., & Rigler, M. (1974). The Development of Language in Genie: a Case of Language Acquisition beyond the "Critical Period." Brain and Language, 1, 81-107
Grimshaw, G.M., Adelstein, A., Brynden, M.P., & MacKinnon, G.E. (1998). First Language Acquisition in Adolescence: Evidence for a Critical Period for Verbal Language Development. Brain and Language, 63, 237-225
Papcun, G., Krashen, S., Terbeek, D., Remington, R., & Harshman, R. (1974). Is the left hemisphere specialized for speech, language, and/or something else? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 55, 319–32
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