The Critical Period Hypothesis

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It is widely believed that the earlier people start learning a language, the more successful they will be. However, it is difficult to ascertain how much intertwined language acquisition and age really are.
The concept of a sensitive period, that is a phase during development when learning a particular skill can occur more effectively than later on in life, is well known in nature. A few examples are imprinting in ducks and song learning for songbirds (Clark 2009). The sensitive period is sometimes regarded as critical, implying that, once it is past, that specific skill can no longer be learnt.
The idea that human language is normally acquired during a critical period was proposed by Lenneberg with the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH). Considering
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Although several researches have been carried out to judge its veracity, general agreement has yet to be reached. This essay aims to critically discuss the evidence concerning the CPH and to reflect upon its implications for language learning. I will first consider feral children and then second language acquisition as ways of testing the CPH, followed by the main causes of current dissent. Finally, I will conclude that the existence of a critical period remains inconclusive and controversial and suggest that a sensible period is more …show more content…
In response to this, White and Genesee (1996) tested eighty-nine speakers of English as a second language. They found that their performance ‘both in terms of their accuracy and their speed, was indistinguishable from that of the native speakers’ (White and Genesee 1996:258). Their results differed significantly from Johnson and Newport’s (1989) and question the CPH, claiming that adults can still access the language learning mechanisms which children possess. Bongaerts et al (1997) performed a study testing the ability of Dutch native speakers to learn British English. Their results suggest that the acquisition of a native-like accent by adult learners of a second language is not a common phenomenon but definitely not an

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