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Critical Period in Language Development

This entry describes the tenets of critical period as a concept and how it relates to language learning. This topic is important for researchers who study children with delays in language acquisition and perceptual differences, for example, deafness.

Intimately linked with the complex interaction between nature and nurture, the term critical period stems from processes identified in developmental psychology and developmental biology. A critical period can be characterized as a maturational time frame during which an organism has heightened sensitivity to external stimuli that are necessary for the full unfolding of a particular skill. During this time period, if the organism is not exposed to the appropriate stimuli, then the dependent skill may be suboptimal or, in extreme cases, even unattainable. Critical periods have been observed ...

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