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  • 1. Feral Children The Truth Behind the Myths
  • 2. 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 ( www.feralchildren.com )
  • 3. Definitions
    • 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
  • 4. 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
  • 5. Some Cases of Feral Children
    • Feral children can be subdivided into 3 classes:
    • Isolated children
    • Confined children
    • Children raised by animals
  • 6.  
  • 7. Nature vs. Nurture in IQ
    • Are differences between people due to environmental or genetic differences?
    • Misunderstanding the question
      • “ Is a person’s intelligence due more to genes or to environment?”
      • no genes = no intelligence
      • both genes & intelligence crucial for any trait
  • 8. Heritability & Environmentality
    • Heritability
      • degree to which variation in trait stems from genetic, rather than environmental, differences among individuals
    • Environmentality
      • degree to which variation is due to environmental rather than genetic differences
  • 9. We are Uniquely Language-Users
    • Other Animals Communicate
    • Cats arch their back to scare the neighbor cat
    • Bees tell each other when they have found food
    • Chimpanzees can be taught to use primitive sign language to communicate desires.
  • 10. Enter Rules But what are rules, and how are they represented in the brain? Double Meanings? Is American a Language?
  • 11. Questions About Rules
      • How do we come to have such knowledge?
      • In what form is such knowledge represented in the mind?
      • How can children learn grammar?
  • 12. Noam Chomsky
    • Focused on the vast and unconscious set of hypothesized rules that must exist in the minds of speakers and hearers in order for them to produce and understand their native language.  
  • 13. Chomsky’s Views
    • 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).
  • 14. Chomsky’s Views
    • 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.
  • 15. We are Uniquely Language-Users
    • We Use Language
    • 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)
  • 16. 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
  • 17. Grammar
    • How do we know that one sentence is grammatical and the other is not?
      • Amy likes Stan
      • Think likes I Stan that Amy
    • Cannot be that we have learned each instance individually. Sentences are infinite; brain is not.
  • 18. The origin of language
    • Evolutionary psychology
    • Language is an adaptation
      • Modularity: language is a mechanism specifically adapted for communication, i.e. a cognitive module [and a kind of mutation]
      • Non-modularity: language evolved gradually by adding new communicative functions to existing neural hardware; there is no neural mechanism dedicated exclusively to language
  • 19. What is a Language?
    • Language = def. A system that uses some physical sign (sound, gesture, mark) to express meaning.
  • 20. What do you believe?
    • Language Acquisition
    • Linguistic
    • Domain-Specificity
    • Structure
    • Genes/Instinct
    • Modularity
    • Specific Capacity
    • Child Language
    • Psychological
    • Domain-Generality
    • Function
    • Learning
    • Experience
    • Generalized Intelligence
  • 21. There’s still something about Human Language
    • All humans seem to acquire language following the roughly the same developmental path .
    • At birth, infants seem to have an infinite capacity to learn any language .
    • Humans can create new languages to communicate with other humans.
    • Language learning seems to be subject to specific critical period effects .
  • 22. How does this happen? (Two familiar views, no?)
    • Nativist
    • All humans have an innate “linguistic bioprogram” or a “core grammar” which allows them to learn or (in some cases) create languages based on the input they receive.
    • Empiricist
    • Creoles get to be more complex grammatically because they are used in a wider variety of communicative situations – these new uses require the language to encode more differences.
  • 23. Critical Period Effects
    • Critical Period: the biologically-determined period in which acquisition of a behavior or property must occur to be successful.
    • Some environmental input is necessary for development to occur “normally”:
      • Imprinting in ducks, geese
      • Photoreceptors in humans
  • 24. Kids gone WILD! (The cases of feral children…)
    • Limited number of children have been found who have developed without exposure to language .
    • Victor of Aveyron (19 th century France, ???)
    • Isabelle (1930’s France, 6 years old)
      • Normal IQ
      • Normal (?) use of language as an adult
    • Genie (1970’s California, 13 years old)
      • Abusive situation, likely brain damage
      • Learned vocabulary, limited (if any) syntax.
      • Language processed on the right hemisphere , not the left.
  • 25. The tough questions… (Reprised from before…)
    • Why does language acquisition always follow the same developmental path ?
    • How can infants learn any natural language ?
    • How do humans create new languages in order to communicate?
    • Why should language learning be subject to specific critical period effects ?
  • 26. Why can’t it be both ?
    • Short answer : It probably is.
    • Longer answer :
    • The development of language isn’t directly observable – so we can’t reliably determine what is innate and what is ultimately learned.
    • Approaches like Nature and Nurture give us logical extremes
    • A definite combination of both
  • 27. Consider this… (New insights that might prove useful…)
    • Human infants pay attention to faces and people who are talking.
    • Human infants like listening to human speech – and especially speech from their own language.
    • Human infants constantly seek new sources of stimulation.
    • Human infants attach to nurturing figures and environments.
    • Human infants babble long before they are able to produce words.
    • WHY?
  • 28. What’s my motivation?
    • Any time we ask why a behavior evolved in the way that it did, we have to consider 4 different factors:
      • Evolutionary Component
        • How did the behavior develop?
      • Developmental Component
        • How does the behavior develop in infants?
      • Mechanistic Component
        • How does the body perform such a behavior?
      • Functional Component
        • Why does the individual engage in the behavior?
  • 29. 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.
  • 30. 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…
  • 31. The flip side: Missing Links
    • Conversely, the hypothesis that animals lack certain cognitive aspects needed to process language forces us into an opposite position:
    • Human language may not be fundamentally different than the forms of communication employed by animals .
  • 32. Definition
    • Feral Child – a child who has lived in
    • isolation starting at a very
    • young age and thereby has
    • remained unaware of human
    • behavior and language
  • 33. Romulus & Remus
  • 34. Mowgli & Tarzan
  • 35. Two Classes of Feral Children
    • The children who wander off and live in the wild on their own
    • The children who are nurtured by animals in the wild, abandoned by parents
  • 36. Feral Children
    • Victor – (early 1800s) The wild boy of Aveyron. Found in the woods at about 11 or 12. He was probably partially mentally retarded. He never learned to use language.
    • Genie – (1970) 13 year old girl had lived whole life in total isolation in her home. She may or may not have been of normal intelligence but never able to acquire language.
    • Isabell – Found at 6 (1947). In two months she was combining words. Within a year she had similar language to other 7 year olds.
  • 37. Interesting Point
    • It is very possible to rescue a child from a wolf den…it is impossible for anyone to be an eyewitness of day-by-day associations between a child and a wolf pack.
  • 38. Therefore…
    • Scientists, Doctors, and Psychologists have focused a great deal of time and energy on studying the cases of extreme isolation which are modeled in the 1 st class of feral children.
  • 39. 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
  • 40. 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
  • 41. 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
  • 42. 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
  • 43. 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 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
    Confined children
  • 44. Genie (04.05.1975)
    • 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]
  • 45. 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
  • 46. 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
  • 47. 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
  • 48. 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)
  • 49. 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!
  • 50. Victor – The Wild Boy of Aveyron
    • Captured in January 1800
    • Estimated to be about 10 years old
    • His desires did not go beyond his physical needs
    • He could not speak or understand human language
    • He preferred raw food and ripped of any clothes that were put on him
  • 51. Victor - The Wild Boy of Aveyron
    • Diagnosed as an “incurable idiot”
    • Put through numerous tests (psychological and physiological)
    • Made small progress in social behavior
    • Never learned to speak or understand human language
  • 52. Oxana Malaya – The Ukrainian Dog Girl
    • Found in 1991; Age 8
    • Found in dog kennels outside her home
    • Abandoned by her mother
    • Sounded and had dog-like mannerisms
  • 53. To what extent was the child with normal mind before his isolation?
  • 54. Nature vs Nurture
  • 55. Idiocy Before Isolation (Nature)
    • Language deficient
    • Untidiness
    • Animal-like sounds
    • Ingesting “nasties”
    • Insensitivity to temperature
    • Un-attachment to other humans
    • Inability to walk upright
    • More apt to be abandoned
  • 56. Nurture
    • Seems improbable that chance would lead to so many cases
    • Children who are mentally challenged would have a very difficult time surving in the woods
  • 57. Common Ground
    • “ 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.”
    • Shattuck 1980, pp40
  • 58. Significance of Feral Children
    • Entertainment
    • Development of Behaviorism and Behavior Modification
    • Conclusions about sensitive periods
    • Provide for an experiment that can never be ethically planned or conducted by scientists
  • 59. IQ Differences among Racial/Cultural Groups
    • Find differences among racial & cultural groups on IQ
      • American Blacks score about 15 points lower than Whites
    • WHY?
      • genetics?
        • Witty & Jenkins (1935)
        • No support for genetic differences
      • environment?
  • 60. Why differences between Blacks & Whites?
    • Social designation influences
      • autonomous minorities
        • deliberately separate themselves
      • immigrant minorities
        • came to country to better lives
        • see selves as better than those left behind
      • involuntary minorities
        • did not choose minority status
        • routinely judged as inferior by dominant majority
        • cross-cultural findings on IQ scores
  • 61. Bibliography
    • Brown, Roger. 1959. Words and things . Glencoe: The Free Press.
    • Candland, Douglas. 1993. Feral children and clever animals . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Curtiss, Susan. 1977. Genie – A psycholinguistic study of a modern-day „wild child“ . New York: Academic Press.
    • Davis, Kingsley. 1966. Human society . New York: Macmillan.
    • Mindshock – Feral children. http://www.mojoflix.com/Video/Oxana-Malaya-The-Feral-Child.html. (27.11.2006) [no author, no publishing year]
  • 62. Bibliography
    • Pines, Maya. 1997. The civilizing of Genie. Teaching through the disciplines: Psychology , ed. by Loretta F. Kasper. New York: Whittier.
    • Skuse, D.H. 1988. Extreme deprivation in early childhood. Language development in exceptional circumstances , ed. by Dorothy Bishop and Kay Mogford, 29-46. New York: Livingstone.
    • Ward, Andrew. 2006. Feral children. http://www.feralchildren.com/de/index.php . (27.11.2006)
  • 63. Any Questions?