Genie and Critical Period Hypothesis | TESL Issues

Genie and Critical Period Hypothesis

Genie

Born in 1957, Genie experienced extreme deprivation beginning at about twenty months of age when she was confined to a dark room in the back of a house, harnessed to a potty seat by day and strapped in a sleeping bag in a caged crib at night, until she was discovered in 1970 at the age of 13.9. she was exposed to little or not auditory stimulation during confinement, and beaten when she made sounds. Genie’s language experience during confinement was thus thought to be minimal to non-existent. Her father braked and growled at her; her mother, going blind, was allowed minimal contact with her children. When discovered Genie’s appeared to be about six or seven years old, weighted 59 pounds, was malnourished, incontinent, had difficulty standing and walking, could not chew solid food, and never spoke. She appeared to understand only a few words. Genie’s physical development quite quickly brought her into puberty. Genie’s language development, particularly its syntax, appeared extremely deficited. After five months, she began to use single words and her vocabulary grew quickly. However, a complex of coherent linguistic deficits continuously characterised the syntax of Genie’s language. The nature of these deficits suggests the absence or malfunction of a Language Faculty. Accordingly, Genie’s language lacks structure dependence; attempts at recursion in her language are deviant (Lust, 2006).

Genie predominantly used her right hemisphere for language. One possible explanation for Genie’s failure with language is that after a critical period, the left hemisphere can no longer control language acquisition


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