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Lecture 10

Notes for lecture ten of Second Language Acquisition, incl. Age and L2 acq. conclusions

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Rena Helms- Park

PLIB25 Lecture 10Sensitive Periods for Language Acquisition The conundrumExcluding pathological cases feral children aphasics L1A is universally successful The outcomes of the L2A process vary greatly WhyJoseph Conradpolish has very different sound system from English learnt English when he got off the ship 19 years old mastered English wrote the bookHeart of Darkness which turned into a movie called apocalypse had a thick accentGeniean example of a pathological caseBrought to the attention of child welfare authorities in LA in 1970From 18 months to 13 years confined to one room strapped to a chair or kept in a strait jacket never spoken to beaten if she made any noise when found unable to speak stand erect or understand simple commands Genies father was crazy her mother was blind and her brother was told to only give her good not to speak to herLinguists tried to teach her how to speakGenie learnt some words lexical knowledge was not bad and apparently she used pragmatics but her morphology and syntax were terrible she did not have basic SVO orderbased on this case linguistics said it was evidence of a critical periodThe concept of critical periods came from pathological cases like Genie o However pathological cases are problematic because children do not have normal childhood o There may be other factors that affected their children that can also be the reason for their poor speech skills The critical period hypothesis There is a neurologically or otherwise conditioned window of opportunity for acquiring language fully through the languagespecific faculty UGothere is a window of opportunity to learn a language after that period its game over critical periods are an allornothing caseeither you use it before puberty or you lose it o Nativists said that there is a biological language mechanism that can change over time matures and then diesthey claimed that the mechanism died at pubertyThe term sensitive periods is preferred nowadaysWhy a Critical PeriodPenfield 1959 The brain becomes progressively stiff and rigid o Famous Canadian neurologist said that the brain loses plasticity the ability for one part of the brain to take on the function of another part that is damaged and becomes lateralized language functions move to the left side of the brain and the brain is then lateralized for language at puberty o Plasticity deals with damage as well as changeschanges might be normal y a child has double the number of synapses at the age of 4the synapses that are used form strong pathways those that are not used to lead to dead
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