The Critical Period Hypothesis For Language Acquisition

2050 Words Nov 17th, 2014 9 Pages
The Critical Period Hypothesis for language acquisition was popularised by Eric Lenneberg (1967) upon the foundations laid by neurologist Wilder Penfield and colleague and Lamar Roberts (1959). It is the subject of a linguistic debate over the extent to which language acquisition is biologically linked to age. As defined by Reber and Reber (2001), the critical period is, 'a period of time during which an organism is optimally ready for the acquisition of specific responses’. This essay will consider the evidence, both supporting and contesting the Critical Period Hypothesis as well as how the findings of these studies implicate language learning. It shall also endeavour to engage with alternative suggestions and ultimately argue for the existence of a form of the critical period hypothesis, perhaps better called a sensitive period.

The Basis of the Critical Period Hypothesis:

The notion of a Critical Period originated in the study of neurological science. A notable study was conducted which looks at orientation specificity in the visual cortex for cats (Baxter, 1966). Baxter exposed cats to only horizontal striped patterns during the first weeks of their lives, and as a result found that they would never have the ability to perceive other patterns such as vertical stripes.Further studies of a Critical Period for vision and environment include Hubel and Wiesel (1963) who also used cats to determine the effects of monocular deprivation. Hubel and Wiesel used monocular…
Open Document