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 ( www.feralchildren.com )
Homo ferus : - Latin: “wild man“ -> feral man - Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, 1707-1778): listed “homo ferus“ as a subdivision of the genus “homo sapiens“ - defining characteristics: tetrapus -> crawling on all fours mutus -> mute hursutus -> hairy
The Critical Period Hypothesis (Lenneberg, 1967)
Before age 2, 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
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
He a bandons the idea that children produce languages only by imitation (abandon behaviorism)
He rejects the idea that direct teaching and correcting of grammar could account for children’s utterances because the rules children were unconsciously acquiring are buried in the unconscious of the adults.
He claims that there are generative rules (e xplicit algorithms that characterize the structures of a particular language).
Hypothesis – The inborn linguistic capacity of humans is sensitive to just those rules that occur in human languages. Language development occurs if the environment provides exposure to language. Similar to the capacity to walk.
Universal Grammar - Despite superficial differences all human languages share a fundamental structure. This structure is a universal grammar. We have an innate ability to apply this universal grammar to whatever language we are faced with at birth.
We can separate our vocalization from a given situation (cats only arch their back in the appropriate situation).
We can lie (animals only report)
We can speculate (animals are bad at counterfactuals)
Normal language development L2 is increasingly difficult 15y + foreign accent in L2 11-14y grammatical refinement & expansion of vocabulary of L1/L2 3-10y acquisition of structure of L1/L2 21-36m from babbling to words in L1/L2 4-20m cooing 0-3m Language milestone Age
Any time we ask why a behavior evolved in the way that it did, we have to consider 4 different factors:
How did the behavior develop?
How does the behavior develop in infants?
How does the body perform such a behavior?
Why does the individual engage in the behavior?
The Teleological Trap (For catching Teleogies, right?)
Insects developed wings in order to fly.
Birds fly south in winter because it’s too cold for them in the north.
Kids babble at 9 months because they’re getting ready to start speaking.
The notion that a process (like development) proceeds to achieve a single logical goal.
A Teleonomic Explanation Behavior Kid learns mother’s voice. Kid recognizes mother. Kid figures mother is a good person to attach to. Kid is taken care of by mother. KID LIVES! Kid isn’t so scared of the world. Kid is comfortable in a nurturing environment Kid undergoes fruitful social-cognitive development. Kid exposed to plenty of language stimuli from mother. KID ACQUIRES LANGUAGE!
We can build similar chains of events for most behaviors…
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!
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 18-20 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 18-20 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
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
Timetable of cases dog child 8 1991 Novaya Blagoveshchenka, Ukraine female Oxana Malaya confined child 13 1970 California, USA female Genie confined child 6 1938 Ohio, USA female Isabelle wolf children 8 and 2 1920 Midnapore, India female Kamala & Amala confined child 17 1828 Nuremberg, Germany male Kaspar Hauser isolated child 11 1799 Aveyron, France male Viktor isolated child 13 1724 Hameln, Germany male Wild Peter Classification Age Date Location Sex Name
“ Functional [nurture] damage can be partially repaired, that what one environment has brought about , a new environment can change. How far the boy could change back from animal to human provides part of the evidence of his original condition.”