Genie was a girl who in 1970 had to be admitted to a children’s hospital in Los Angeles. She was thirteen years old and had spent much of her life tied up and locked in a claustrophobic room. The only human contact was with her mother, who fed her. The physical, sensory, social and emotional deprivation caused him a serious problem in his language development.
Genie’s father hated any kind of noise, that’s why he hit him every time he tried to say something or when he made a sound
When Genie entered the hospital she did not know how to speak, but little by little she managed to answer what they asked her, although she used a simple syntax. It seemed that everything was going well and that he could acquire the language that was denied him despite having left behind the critical period, a stage that appears in the first years of life.
The critical period in language development
It is in the critical period where we make our first contact with the language. If throughout this stage we are deprived of it, we will not be able to develop our language with the same ease. That happened to Genie. the effort that had to be made with it was much greater than that made with children who learn language during this critical period.
After running many tests on Genie – tests that many have considered experimental, rather than therapeutic – the researchers concluded that the fact that Genie had her ability to communicate was blocked was in the left hemisphere of her brain.
During the critical period, children are like sponges. They receive information and absorb it which allows them to quickly learn the language they hear. The left hemisphere predominates over the right, so that is where the linguistic program corresponding to a first language is installed. If this does not happen, the person will have to redouble their efforts later if they do not want to see their communication skills compromised .
After the critical period, language cannot be acquired
Although Genie did manage to speak, she was unable to “mature” her language. This was anchored to a very simple syntax typical of young children. Therefore, after the critical period, it is possible to learn to speak, but with limitations and without the possibility of advancing when reaching a certain point. Human beings have a predisposition to acquire language as soon as they are born. But, if not stimulated, this ability atrophies.