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Can developmental disorders reveal the component parts of the human language faculty?

By Michael S.C. Thomas and Annette Karmiloff-Smith


Differential profiles of language impairments in genetic developmental disorders have been argued to reveal the component parts of the language system and perhaps even the genetic specification of those components. Focusing predominantly on a comparison betweenWilliams syndrome and Specific Language Impairment, we argue that the detailed level of behavioral fractionations observed in these disorders goes beyond the possible contribution of genes and implicates the developmental process as a key contributor to the cognitive outcome. Processes of compensation and interaction across development make highly specific developmental deficits unlikely; in line with this view, the actual level of specificity remains controversial, even in Specific Language Impairment (a paradigmatic example of a supposedly selective deficit).We consider the challenge of characterizing the atypical developmental process from the perspectives of brain development, cognitive development, and computational modeling. Failure to take up this challenge leaves many current explanations of developmental deficits ill specified at best and implausible at worst

Topics: psyc
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Year: 2005
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