|SignWriting List Forum|
Rebecca Larche Moreton |
Date: Wed Oct 18, 2000 1:38 am
Subject: Article on early-childhood language acquisition Newsweek
The Fall-Winter 2000 issue of Newsweek, out this week, is entirely devoted
to the child, from birth to three years. It includes a mojor article on
the acquisition of language, which begins with the description of a little
girl, a premature baby, who from birth demonstrated high
intelligence and an independent approach to the world. Within the first
two months at home, her parents also noticed that she did not respond to
loud noises. The pediatrician, according to the article, reassured them
that there was no cause for concern. After ten months, however, the
parents took the baby to a speech and hearing center; cochlear implants
were put in. At age six, the child "now proudly counts to 10. But her
overall language proficiency remains that of a toddler."
There follows a discussion of how babies learn their first language.
Nowhere in the article is there a mention of the fact that that first
language need not be a spoken language, but can just as well be a manual
language, just so long as the child is exposed to it during the earliest
years. Instead, the writer tells us that, in contrast to SLI (Specific
Language Impairment, a lack of language development which occurs in
hearing children), the "more serious language problems" of the deaf child
mentioned earlier "can often be prevented today. If a newborn's hearing
impairment is diagnosed and treated within six months, says Dr. Lynn
Spivak of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the child usually develops
normal speech and language on schedule. But because the critical period
for language development is so brief, any delay can have major
consequences." Here again, no mention of language development through
exposure to a signed language.
The error here is in equating "failure to develop LANGUAGE" with "failure
to develop ENGLISH"--the deaf child mentioned previously, now, at age six,
can speak some English words but does not form sentences in English;
indeed, "she may never have an intuitive feel for syntax."
But she could have developed a feel for the syntax of a SIGNED language,
had she had exposure to it during the critical period.
Would somebody who can speak to this with references, authorities, etc.,
please write a letter to Newsweek after reading the ariticle (pp. 12-15 of
"For the Love of Language," Newsweek Special Issue: Birth to Three, New
Insights [no date; out this week]?
(Rebecca Larche Moreton)
301 South Ninth Street
Oxford, MS 38655