By Amelia Lambelet, Raphael Berthele (auth.)
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2 There are different variants of age limits in the existing literature. Moreover, the effects of age on language development are believed to differ across different linguistic domains. For example, with Genie, morphosyntactic difficulties were observed, but lexical development was not delayed in comparison to normal language development. This has caused many researchers to rethink, and even call into question, the existence of a critical period, at least with regard to L1 acquisition. 2 Chomsky and the language acquisition device The hypothesis of a critical period as expressed earlier can also be connected to Chomsky’s concept of a language acquisition device (LAD) (1965), which Chomsky proposed as an explanation for a human’s capacity to develop a linguistic system without explicit instruction.
2 Influence of L1 on L2 learning The second major axis of research on the effects of age on second and foreign language development touches upon the interactions between L1 and any languages learned afterward. According to researchers in this area, the more developed an L1 is at the time an L2 is learned, the more deeply it will be entrenched and the more it will influence L2 learning. The differences between children and adults in this sense cannot be tied solely to differences in terms of processes or neurobiological or cognitive causes; rather, they depend on connections between first and second/foreign languages and on the interactions between the languages.
Genie’s syntactic difficulties (as well as the difficulties experienced by other children suffering from deafness or mental disability) have long been interpreted as evidence of a limited time frame for language development. Nevertheless, this conclusion has become the object of frequent criticism, mainly for its failure to duly consider general physical, cognitive, and emotional factors that can impact linguistic development. Other criticism is also directed toward empirical inconsistencies in Genie’s case.
Age and Foreign Language Learning in School by Amelia Lambelet, Raphael Berthele (auth.)