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Language in Our BrainThe Origins of a Uniquely Human Capacity$
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Angela D. Friederici

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036924

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036924.001.0001

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The Brain’s Critical Period for Language Acquisition

The Brain’s Critical Period for Language Acquisition

Chapter:
(p.145) 5 The Brain’s Critical Period for Language Acquisition
Source:
Language in Our Brain
Author(s):

Angela D. Friederici

Noam Chomsky

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262036924.003.0006

Whether a critical period for language learning exists (or not) is at the heart of ongoing debates over why second language learning appears to be easy early in life but much more difficult as we age. Neurocognitive studies on second language learning suggest that a unitary neural system is involved when processing more than one language, and the earlier a second language is learned, the more similar the neural language networks for the two languages will be. There appears to be a close relation between the developmental trajectory of white matter maturation and behavioral language skills. By looking at individuals coming from very different language backgrounds, such as native signers and hearing individuals, we find data that point towards a universal neural language system that is largely independent of input modality, but can be modulated slightly by the lifelong use of a given language.

Keywords:   second language, bilingual brain, critical period, developmental trajectory, sign language

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