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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the critical period for language through the prism of deafness. The first topic is the concept of critical periods, followed by a summary of research investigating age of acquisition effects on the outcome of second-language learning (L2). The phenomenon of late first-language (L1) acquisition among deaf children is then described. The focus of this chapter is on a series of studies that compare and contrast the long-range outcome of L1 and L2 acquisition in relation to age of acquisition. The effects of late L1 acquisition are greater than those for L2 learning. The effects include a compromised ability to process and understand all forms of language. Late L1 acquisition has deleterious effects on the ability to learn other languages and on reading development. The findings come from experiments in American Sign Language (ASL) and English using a variety of psycholinguistic paradigms across levels of linguistic structure and include narrative comprehension and shadowing, sentence shadowing and memory, grammatical judgment, and reading comprehension. How these psycholinguistic phenomena illuminate the critical period for language is then discussed.

Keywords: critical period, sign language, ASL, language acquisition, second-language acquisition, reading, development, psycholinguistics, comprehension, phonology, grammar, education, early intervention, Wild Boy of Aveyron, Itard

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