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Feral children. Outline o Definitions o Questions o The Critical Period Hypothesis o Some Cases of Feral Children o Timetable of Cases o Conclusion o.

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Presentation on theme: "Feral children. Outline o Definitions o Questions o The Critical Period Hypothesis o Some Cases of Feral Children o Timetable of Cases o Conclusion o."— Presentation transcript:

1 Feral children

2 Outline o Definitions o Questions o The Critical Period Hypothesis o Some Cases of Feral Children o Timetable of Cases o Conclusion o Bibliography

3 Definitions Feral (Latin: fera = wild animal) = “wild“, undomesticated Feral children: human children who, from a very young age, have lived in isolation from human contact and have remained unaware of human social behavior and unexposed to human language

4 Definitions Homo ferus: - Latin: “wild man“ -> feral man - Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, ): listed “homo ferus“ as a subdivision of the genus “homo sapiens“ - defining characteristics: tetrapus-> crawling on all fours mutus -> mute hursutus -> hairy

5 Questions Is there really a critical period in a child’s development during which, if language acquisition is not stimulated or encouraged, it may be impaired later on or not emerge at all? What can be learned at what age?

6 The Critical Period Hypothesis (Lenneberg, 1967) Before age 2, entire language acquisition is not possible because the brain is not sufficiently mature. After puberty, natural language acquisition is not obtainable because the brain is physiologically mature, but the lateralization of all higher mental functions is complete and cerebral plasticity is lost. (we use either the right or left side of our brain not both) In order to acquire language, there are two necessary requirements: 1. a human brain 2. sufficient exposure to language during this critical period between the age of 2 years and puberty

7 Some cases of feral children

8 Feral children can be subdivided into 3 classes: 1. Isolated children 2. Confined children 3. Children raised by animals

9 1. Isolated children  who have survived on their own in the wild, without human or animal assistance

10 Wild Peter Was exposed to the wild by his father and his stepmother Found 1724, at the age of 13, in Hameln, Germany, as a naked, brownish and black-haired creature He became the “possession“ of George I. of England Was given to Princess Caroline of Wales, and investigated by Dr. Arbuthnot Did not know how to answer questions Was never able to speak properly, learned only a few words: “Peter“, “wild man“, “bow-wow“ (dog), “ki scho“ (King George), “qui ca“ (Queen Caroline) Peter died in England in 1785 Isolated children

11 Viktor of Aveyron Found 1799, was captured as a naked 11-year-old boy in the Caune Woods, France Fell under the care of Dr. Itard in Paris; the French Physician suspected an abnormality of the larynx Was able to comprehend language, but was practically unable to produce it the only 2 pronounced words: “lait“ (milk), “oh dieu“ (my god) The majority of his communication consisted of grunts and howls Died in Paris in 1828 Isolated children

12 2. Confined children  other humans are undoubtedly the cause of their neglect and abuse; they are deprived of social contact and have often been kept in confinement in cellars

13 Kaspar Hauser Had spent his childhood in a darkened cell Found 1828, at the age of 17, as a young man in peasant dress in Nuremberg, Germany; Capable of speech, but limited spoken vocabulary: “Ae sechtene mocht ich waehn, wie mei Votta waehn is“ (I want to be a horseman like my father is“, “bua“ (people), “ross“ (horse) [at the age of 17] Linguistic abilities: - no use of conjunctions, participles, adverbs - deficient in respect to his syntax - use of names instead of pronouns - over-generalization Examples:“Kaspar very well“ [17 y.]“Kaspar shall Julius tell“ “I all men love“ “The man with the mountain“ (a fat man) 1829: considerable progress in reading and writing -> decided to write his memoirs 1833: was assassinated by a stranger Confined children

14 Isabelle The illegitimate child had been kept in isolation by her grandfather and was fed by her deaf-mute mother (and communicated with her through gestures) Found 1938 at the age of six in Ohio Astonishing progress: Day O -> first vocalization after 2 mths. -> putting sentences together 11 mths. -> able to identify written words, to add to ten and to retell a story 18 mths. -> able to ask complicated questions; vocabulary of about 1,500 – 2,000 words  Reached a normal mentality by the age of eight and a half years  Covered in 2 years the usual stages of learning characteristics that ordinarily require six! Confined children

15 Genie From the age of 20 months, she lived in nearly total isolation and was attached to a potty by a special harness for most of the day Her father did not speak to her but communicated through barking Found in November 1970, at the age of 13, in California, she could not stand erect and was unable to speak except 2 words: “Stopit“, “Nomore“ 1970: one-word utterances, e.g. “No.No.Cat.“ [13 y.] 1971: her language resembled that of a normal months old child (one year after her discovery)  distinction between plural and singular nouns  two-word utterances, e.g. “Want milk.“, “Big teeth.“ [14y.] But: NO vocabulary explosion after months Incapable to produce questions, e.g. “Where is may I have a penny?“ [17;2] “I where is graham cracker on the top shelf?“ Present condition: speech development is not perfect, but she can utter the most things she wants to; lives in an adult foster home in California Confined children

16 Genie ( )  Genie (18;1): Genie have yellow material at school.  Marilyn (adult): What are you using it for?  G: Paint. Paint picture. Take home. Ask teacher yellow material. Blue paint. Yellow green paint. I want use material at school.  M: You wanta paint it, or are you trying to tell me you did paint it?  G: Did paint. [Curtiss, 1977]

17 3. Children raised by animals  are raised by animals like wolves, dogs, monkeys, etc.

18 Kamala and Amala The “wolf children“ Kamala (8y.) and Amala (2y.) had been living with a family of wolves in a cave in a jungle in India In 1920, they were discovered in Midnapore, by Reverend Singh who took charge of them Preferred to sit in the darkest corner of their room Fingers and toes were deformed, they were not able to stand upright snarled at other kids and cried like wolves Amala died in September 1921 Within 5 years of orphanage, Kamala acquired a Bengali - vocabulary of more than 40 words: “ha“ (yes), “hoo“ (cold); she was also able to name objects 1929: Kamala died Children raised by animals

19 Oxana Malaya  At the age of 3, her alcoholic parents left her neglected daughter outside one night and she crawled into a hovel where the family kept dogs  Between the ages of 3 and 8, she lived with the dogs in a kennel of the back garden of her family home  In 1991, the “dog child“ was found in Ukraine, barking and crawling on all fours  At an orphanage school, she was taught to walk upright, to eat with her hands and to acquire language;  2006: at the age of 23, she is able to speak, but there is no cadence or rhythm or inflection to her speech; she can count but not add up  Today, she works as a cowgirl Children raised by animals

20 Timetable of cases NameSexLocationDateAgeClassification Wild PetermaleHameln, Germany172413isolated child ViktormaleAveyron, France179911isolated child Kaspar Hauser maleNuremberg, Germany182817confined child Kamala & Amala femaleMidnapore, India19208 and 2wolf children IsabellefemaleOhio, USA19386confined child GeniefemaleCalifornia, USA197013confined child Oxana Malaya female Novaya Blagoveshchenka, Ukraine 19918dog child

21 Problems There aren´t many linguistic records of the most cases (exception: Genie) After their return to civilization, the experiences of feral children in acquiring language are totally different (different social background, different periods of isolation)

22 Conclusion  Some feral children acquire normal language ability, but only if found before the onset of puberty (e.g. Isabelle)  Other feral children never master the rules of grammar and syntax  Unless children are exposed to language in the critical period, they lose much of their innate ability to learn a language and especially its grammatical principles  The Critical Period Hypothesis is not proven, but it is strongly supported!


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