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The Critical Period Hypothesis of Language Acquisition

The Critical Period Hypothesis of Language Acquisition

"Ahhhhh!" I yell in frustration. "I've been studying Spanish for seven years, and I still can't speak it fluently."

"Well, honey, it's not your fault. You didn't start young enough," my mom says, trying to comfort me.

Although she doesn't know it, she is basing her statement on the Critical Period Hypothesis. The Critical Period Hypothesis proposes that the human brain is only malleable, in terms of language, for a limited time. This can be compared to the critical period referred to in to the imprinting seen in some species, such as geese. During a short period of time after a gosling hatches, it begins to follow the first moving object that it sees. This is its critical period for imprinting. (1) The theory of a critical period of language acquisition is influenced by this phenomenon.

This hypothetical period is thought to last from birth to puberty. During this time, the brain is receptive to language, learning rules of grammar quickly through a relatively small number of examples. After puberty, language learning becomes more difficult. The Critical Period Hypothesis attributes this difficulty to a drastic change in the way that the brain processes language after puberty. This makes reaching fluency during adulthood much more difficult than it is in childhood.

The field of language acquisition is very experimental because scientists still do not completely understand how the brain deals with language. Broca's area and Wernicke's area are two parts of the brain that have long been identified as areas important for language. Broca's area is the left frontal cortex, while Wernicke's area is the left posterior temporal lobe. These areas are co...

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...ar [Part 1] Forum area of Gene Expression websight.

http://www.gnxp.com/

5) The Biological Foundations of Language, Does Empirical Evidence Support Innateness of Language? by Bora Lee.

http://www.duke.edu/~pk10/language/neuro.htm

6) Evolution of Universal Grammar by Martin A. Nowak, Natalia L. Komarova, and Partha Niyogi.

http://www.ptb.ias.edu/nowak/pdf/Science01.pdf

7) Universal Grammar by Charles Henry.

http://www.ptb.ias.edu/nowak/pdf/Science01.pdf

8) A concept of 'critical period' for language acquisition, Its implication for adult language learning by Katsumi Nagai.

http://www.tsuyama-ct.ac.jp/kats/papers/kn7/kn7.htm

9) Brain signatures of artificial language processing: Evidence challenging the critical language hypothesis by Angela Friederici, Karsten Steinhauer, and Erdmut Pfeifer.

http://www.giccs.georgetown.edu/~steinhau/pnas2002.pdf
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