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A famous American girl who is remembered as Genie was an abnormal child born in 1957. She was forced to live in isolation for almost two decades since she was a few score months old. She could learn no language and she remained unaware of any social practice. Linguists approached the girl when she was 17 years old and tried to teach her a language, but all in vain. She remained under study for decades and learned the English language, but it was too erroneous that she could not speak, write, or identify many basic language structure perfectly. Her case studies reveal that a language cannot be learned after a certain age.
The LAD and the Behavioral Reinforcement theories seem imperfect after the case study of Genie. The LAD proposed by Noam Chomsky claims that language acquisition is an innate process that is performed by the language acquisition device whereas the behavioral reinforcement theory proposes the idea that language acquisition is a social process and it can be learned like any other social skill (Menyuk, Paula. N.p.). If these theories were perfect to explain the process of language acquisition, Genie should have learned language when she was exposed to society after 17 years.
Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences Patricia Kuhl's Ted Talk supports the idea that language is learned better in infancy than in adult age. She argues in the speech that the first language is learned in the best way between the age between 6 to 12 months and this capability keeps decreasing with the increase in age. She argues in the speech that a child cannot learn a language satisfactorily after infancy. Moreover, she argues that a person learns a second language with reference to the first language. Therefore, there is a need of creating a language map in the mind of a person in early infancy so he/she would be able to learn more languages. Kuhl's claim seems nearer to the case of Genie unlike the other theories because Genie could not learn a language satisfactorily once she is grown up without learning a language in infancy (Kuhl, Patricia. P.p. 33).
Menyuk, Paula. The acquisition and development of language. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Kuhl, Patricia K. "Brain mechanisms underlying the critical period for language: Linking theory and practice." Human Neuroplasticity and Education 27 (2010): 33.
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