lesson26 - 26 Module 4 Review Troublesome Concepts...

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26 Module 4 Review Troublesome Concepts Sensitive periods. Although we have encountered the concept of sensitive periods at other points during the course, there are some complications that spring up in the context of language development or, more generally, with the development of communication skills. The complications arise because of what we know about how the timing of sensitive periods can vary according to how we vary the individual’s experience. For example, in the learning of song in several bird species, the sensitive period is earlier and shorter if the only exposure to song comes in the form of listening to recordings. If the bird is exposed to a live “tutor” the sensitive period can be extended. Further we know that the sensitive period can be temporarily suspended in those individuals who hatch late in the season, but it operates as usual the following spring. What we now call sensitive periods used to be called critical periods . But then these exceptions started to be found, and the critical aspect didn’t seem so critical any more. But just because sensitive periods can be extended or even postponed does not mean that the concept isn’t useful. Some forms of learning are clearly more efficient during particular age ranges than at others. Getting a precise age range for the sensitive periods for song learning in birds is not easy, but it is downright difficult when it comes to human language development. Although we can do lab experiments with birds, we can’t do so with humans, so what we know comes from clinical cases, no two of which are completely alike and which are usually complicated by other factors. Deaf children often suffer from other complications besides difficulties hearing, for example, and certainly the cases involving children raised in social isolation are far more complex in terms of what the child has experienced (or failed to experience) than just a failure to be exposed to meaningful language. To make matters even more difficult, the sensitive period for language does not abruptly end; it fades out gradually. Lesson 26 285
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But from what we can piece together from various sources of information (e.g., age at which congenital deafness is corrected, age when brain injury occurs, age of second language acquisition), it seems fair to say that a sensitive period for language acquisition ends at about age 14, give or take a couple of years. Again, this does not mean that no language learning can occur thereafter (or else why would we bother to teach foreign languages to college students?). The brain’s ability to learn language declines after this time, but it does not shut off entirely. Sites of language modules
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This note was uploaded on 05/27/2010 for the course BIOS 373 B02 taught by Professor Dr.danielleger during the Spring '10 term at UNL.

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lesson26 - 26 Module 4 Review Troublesome Concepts...

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