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Nature. 2002 May 2;417(6884):38.

Linguistic ability and early language exposure.

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School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, 1266 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1A8, Canada.


For more than 100 years, the scientific and educational communities have thought that age is critical to the outcome of language learning, but whether the onset and type of language experienced during early life affects the ability to learn language is unknown. Here we show that deaf and hearing individuals exposed to language in infancy perform comparably well in learning a new language later in life, whereas deaf individuals with little language experience in early life perform poorly, regardless of whether the early language was signed or spoken and whether the later language was spoken or signed. These findings show that language-learning ability is determined by the onset of language experience during early brain development, independent of the specific form of the experience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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