The Critical Period in Language Acquisition: Nature vs Nurture Redux


Among those who veer towards the nature end of the nature vs. nurture debates, it is axiomatic that the acquisition of language must be achieved during the “critical period” of a child’s development and that a child’s natural innate ability to learn not only his native language, but one or more foreign ones as well (to native fluency), is basically shut down at puberty.  For adults, learning a foreign language is extremely difficult largely because those portions of the brain involved in language become closed or fixed in those patterns programmed before puberty’s onset.  Many authors, including Steven Pinker in his well-known book The Language Instinct (1994), suggest that this early facility to learn language and its subsequent loss can be explained in evolutionary, and particularly in selective, terms.

But not so fast!  Conventional wisdom is usually wrong.  Click here to read the full article.

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