ESL 91
FALL, 2003

The essays on these pagegs were written by students in class.
Students received a minimal amount of feedback from the instructor and had primary responsibility for revising and editing their own work.


Manimegalai Nadarajah
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain how Genie's language development fits into the theories of Lenneberg, Chomsky, and Skinner?

Genie was a little baby, only 20 months old when she was locked by her abused father in a room and isolated from the world for over eleven and a half years. After she got her freedom, she was admitted to a hospital where she got attention from the entire world. Psychologists, linguists, neurologists, and others who studied brain development were very curious about Genie, her mental level, and her behaviors. They observed her for several years to study the connections between language and brain development. There are so many theories about first language acquisition and brain development, and some of them fit the Genie's case very well. Lenneberg, Chomsky, and Skinner had different theories: Lenneberg thought that human brain has a critical period to learn the first language, in the meanwhile, Chomsky believed that the human has innate language knowledge, and Skinner believed that human learn their language from the environment. Genie's case supported all of their theories but in different ways.

According to the article "The Civilizing of Genie", Eric Lenneberg's theory stated that the human brain has a critical period to develop and learn the first language; he believed that the age was between two to thirteen. After the critical period, the brain has lost its flexibility to acquire more of the first language. When Genie was freed from her room, she was unable to talk or understand anything. Maya Pines mentioned that Genie was a "pitiful, malformed, incontinent, unsocialized and severely malnourished creature". Genie became the pitiful creature with those characteristics, which Maya mentioned because she was isolated for all those years; she didn't talk to anyone and didn't hear anything. There wasn't a chance for her to learn the language in order to develop her brain. Her isolation happened in the critical period which Lenneberg thought as a period to learn the first language. Therefore Lenneberg's theory fits her case very well.

Chomsky believed that human beings are born with unique language knowledge built into their brains. But he added that inborn knowledge must be activated by exposure to language at the proper time, and he agreed with Lenneberg that the time should be before the age of thirteen. According to "The Civilizing of Genie", after Genie was found, experts observed her for several years. During those years they tested her brain development and her language acquisition. She learned to talk and her IQ increased little by little. Her performance increased consistently over the years, but in a very slow process. Genie started to discover the world and socialize with people after her puberty and showed some progress in her language acquisition. Furthermore, her mother reported that Genie spoke some words before she was locked up in her room, and this statement implied that Genie started to talk as a normal child in her early age. So she had some inborn language knowledge, but she couldn't explore it because she was unable to do that. Therefore Chomsky was also right about his theory because Genie's innate knowledge let her learn after the time of her puberty.

According to "Interdisciplinary English", B.F. Skinner's theory says that, children must be taught the native language; they learn the rules from the environment, and imitate what they hear and see from their models. Genie's story supported Skinner's theory. Susan Curtiss, who was an assistant professor in linguistics at UCLA, devoted seven years of her life researching the girl's linguistic development, writing every detail about Genie's performance. Once, Curtiss mentioned that Genie was eager to discover the world; she was always curious and hopeful in her own way. Those curious and hopeful behaviors gave Genie the opportunity to study the fundamentals of language. She took several months to learn basic one-word utterances, and then another several months to speak combinations of two words. However, Genie learned her language, imitating from the environment, which proved that Skinner's theory is also right in some way.

Genie's case was a difficult one to completely fit in anybody's theory. Spending several years in hospitals and special schools, Genie showed that she could acquire her native language after the period of puberty. Chomsky's theory fits in her case because she used her innate language knowledge to learn her native language after her puberty. In the critical period of her life, she was locked up in her room all alone and didn't develop any knowledge. After her freedom, she took several years to learn some language but not as a normal child does. These are a few relevant facts, which supported Lenneberg,s theory. Skinner's theory differs from the others, however; Genie's case proved Skinner's theory was also right in some ways. The freedom gave her the opportunity to learn from the environment. Therefore the theories of Chomsky, Lenneberg, and Skinner fit into Genie's language development in different ways.

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Marie Michelle Catule
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain the statement “Genie is living proof of human resiliency.”

The meaning of human resiliency is someone who fights to recover from a difficult situation or sickness. According to the article, “The Civilization of Genie” written by Maya Pines “Genie is living proof of human resiliency.” First, Genie’s father kept her in isolation for 13 years until the rest of world noticed her. Genie went through a lot of pain, both mental and physical, and she was still alive.

In 1970, Genie was a young girl found in California at the age of 13 in isolation. Genie was the fourth child who was born and survived in her family. At the age of 20 months, Genie was locked in the closet in a small room all by herself. Genie did not communicate with other human beings as she grew up. Genie’s parents did not teach her how to read or speak. As a result, she suffered from the language deprivation. According to the article, Genie was not exposed to language during the critical period; so Genie’s brain had lost the ability to learn a language normally.

Genie’s condition was terrible. She grew up in an environment where she had no contact with other children. She never learned how to play or behave like a human because her condition was like a wild animal. She sat in the room doing nothing, but the only thing she could do was to move her hands and feet. She did not have any freedom to act the way she wanted to.

Furthermore, Genie was not healthy because she did not have good nutrition to help her body function normally. The research discovered that Genie was malnourished and she was underweight for her age. Her nutrition consisted mostly of milk and baby foods. She did not know how to chew because the food she used to eat was liquid. Without enough nutrition Genie’s body did not have normal development. Later, she was examined by other physicians, psychologists and therapists.

When Genie arrived at the Children’s Hospital her condition was not socialized because she was malformed and unfriendly. In the hospital she met new people and was happy to learn new things. In the article, there was a researcher named Susan Curtiss who worked with Genie. When Curtiss went with Genie to the supermarket, Genie looked around with a great curiosity. At that moment Genie became more socialized. She was curious, excited and wanted to learn more about the world.

A few months later, after Genie’s training, she started to speak the language poorly by using some vocabulary and began to speak with only two words. She became more socialized with people in her environment. During that time, Genie started to speak by putting two words together on her own. For instance, she said “big teeth,” “little marble,” “two hands.” A few years later, she became to progress more by producing some verbs: “Curtiss come,” “want milk.” As she came along she put three words together such as “small two cup,” “white clear box.” And now learning was becoming very important for Genie.

Genie was a victim child who was kept in isolation for 13 years. For that reason, her brain lost the ability to develop a language normally as she learned. After she was freed from the isolation she started to learn how to become socialized with human beings and how to communicate with others. As a result, she became a real human and started progressing little by little. Genie’s case showed human resiliency because she continued fighting to recover from a difficult time. These examples showed that Genie is living proof of human resiliency.

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Shuei Machiyama
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain the statement “Genie is living proof of human resiliency.”

Genie is a girl who had been isolated in a small room from the infancy to the age of 13 by the schizophrenic father. And she had no contact with the outside world. As a result, she became a mentally and physically retarded child, especially in the language facility. However, according to Curtiss, a California researcher who researched Genie’s language development over the years, “Genie is a living proof of human resilience.”

In 1970, Genie’s mother escaped from her schizophrenic husband and kept Genie with her. When Genie arrived at the hospital, she was almost like a wild animal. Only she could do was whimper. When she was in the isolated small room, she was often left hungry, on a diet of milk and baby food. Genie was also restrained and caged in a crib. She left to sit on her potty days at a time. The only movement Genie had was her hands and feet. Also her father would beat her. Therefore, she was a malnourished, and malformed, and abused creature.

According to Eric Lenneberg, a Harvard psychologist, in general it is very difficult for child to gain language acquisition after their “critical period”. Critical period is the time limit in which babies must be exposed their language otherwise their brain loses its flexibility to learn first language. Genie could proof that theory of critical period is wrong. Although Genie was isolated during her critical period, she could still increase the language facility in her right hemisphere afterward. From Genie’s experience, Fromkin a person who studied brain function of language learning facility, said that a child could learn certain amount of language after their critical period. After the long time period of intensive treatment and study, Genie was able to communicate at the five year old of language facility and gain new freedom without fears that she had when she was isolated. When she was in the hospital she showed a lot of curiosity and excitement for things that were new for her. Also she was so happy to meet people and communicate. She could earn so many new vocabulary words from the new life. If she were still in the isolated room, she would not get any happiness like she had with Curtiss.

In conclusion, I understood clearly what it means to be a living proof of human resiliency. However at the beginning it was so difficult for all the people to deal with Genie’s rare phenomena; finally they could proof that human beings can survive from mental and physical deprivations. I was totally amazed about all the facts related to Genie’s life force also mental and physical changes, which are written in the text.

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Leizl Nucup
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain how Genie’s language development fits into the theories of Lenneberg, Chomsky and Skinner.

Genie was isolated in a small room by her father from the age of 18 months until she was found at the age of 13 years old. She was unable to speak because she wasn’t exposed to learning language. Genie’s case was aroused among psychologist, linguist and neurologist who were interested to know her mental level after she was found. They are three different theories fit to Genie’s case which explain her deficiencies of learning language. First is Lenneberg’s theory that explain how important that a baby was exposed to learn the language in their very important period. Second is Chomsky’s theory that explains that a baby has an inborn knowledge of language. Then the last is Skinner’s theory that state that children can learn the language if someone teaches them.

According to the article,”The Civilizing of Genie” by Maya Pines, Genie was just starting to learn language when she was isolated by her father. The lack of learning language during the critical period, which refers to the time when the baby must be exposed to language in order to learn it normally, was supported by Genie’s case. According to Eric Lenneberg, a Harvard psychologist, between two years old to 13 years old was the critical time for the child to learn the first language because the brain of the child was flexible. However, at the end of the critical period, the left hemisphere (side) of the brain lost the flexibility for learning language. Genie’s case supports his theory because Genie was not exposed to the language during the critical period so her brain lost the ability to learn the normal language.

According to Chomsky, human beings had an inborn knowledge of learning the language. He believes that four-week-old babies can recognize some human languages, which are the difference between some 40 consonants. “That ability seems to be innate, since babies respond to many more consonants that are used in their parent’s language.” But Chomsky also adds that human beings are set up to be exposed to the language at the proper time. Chomsky theory is supported by Genie’s case because Genie showed that she produced utterances when she was a baby without being taught. It seems that Genie’s difficulties to learn the language were not inborn because she was on the road to learn the language when she was locked up.

According to the text, “Interdisplinary English” by Loretta Kasper, Genie was unable to learn the normal language skills because no one taught her. Skinner believes that children need to be taught to recognize the language. He believes that children couldn’t learn anything if no one taught them. Skinner disagrees with Chomsky’s theory because he believes that the ability to use language is learned, not inborn. Skinner’s theory was supported by Genie’s case because she was able to recognize some words after she was sent to school to learn the language, but she could not speak in a fully developed way.

Lenneberg’s, Chomsky’s and Skinner’s theories state the facts that Genie had deficiencies of learning the language because she didn’t been exposed to language in her critical period. She didn’t have any contact to the outside world and no one taught her to learn the language. However, Genie was able to learn the language but not in a normal way because her brain was not flexible to learn it.

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Dorota Dunleavy
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain the statement “Genie is living proof of human resiliency.“

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from stress and crisis. It is displayed in individuals as optimism, resourcefulness and determination. Human beings are known as individuals who possess the capability to be resilient to stress, hardship, difficulty and abusive situations. The process of achieving recovery is a long, but not an easy task and never guarantees complete success.

A good example of successful, however not complete resilience, is “the Genie” case. According to an article “ The Civilizing of Genie “, years ago a “ wild child” was found in California. When she was discovered at age 13 she could not stand in upright position and she was unable to speak. For many years she was isolated in a small room and deprived of normal development. Her abusive father beat her up when she made any noise. She had nothing to do. She had no toys to play with, nobody to talk to. Genie’s contact with her mother and brother were very limited because they weren’t allowed to talk to her. When she was discovered she resembled a deformed , unsocialized creature. She could not straighten her arms and legs. She didn’t know how to chew . She was a frightened child.

Many physicians, psychologists and therapists tested her during her first months . They didn’t know Genie’s mental level and whether she would be cable to recover. At first she recognized only her name. Psychologists did not really know how much she understood or what language she had.

In spite of Genie’s walking, linguistic and mental problems, she started to make step by step progress. She inspired an assistant professor of linguistics, Susan Curtiss who spent several years with Genies and worked on her linguistic development. Curtis stated “it is surprising that she survived at all ‘ because Genie’s father “never spoke to her”. “He made barking sounds and he growled at her”. There was little for Genie to listen to.

During her first several months of freedom Genie was discovering the new world , the world she never knew. Dr.Curtiss started spending more time with her and developing a more friendly relationship. Curtiss helped Genie to exist in the new and different life. She took Genie to the store , where she seemed excited and curious seeing new things and examining them. During that time Genie learned to recognize many new words. After many years of hard work with the therapists Genie began to speak. At first she spoke only single words; then she began putting two-words together on her own ,not imitating anybody. She said “ big teeth”, “ little marble”. A little later she was able to produce some verbs: “ Curtiss come” and even three-word sentences. Genie’s resiliency proved her enormous human potential.

Although she never fully developed in a normal way she did acquire some language after she was discovered. At first her language was very limited so that Genie wasn’t qualified to attend any school. After a while she began going to nursery school for normal children. Soon after she was transferred to a special elementary school for handicapped children.

In spite of Genie’s difficulties and totally unhappy childhood she proved her human resiliency. Her life was tragic from the day she was born. Deprived of love, contact with other people and a normal existence ,she never developed normally. Genie was nothing else but a poor creature. Her resiliency although not complete, was a big success. She found a new better life. Genie still cannot live by herself , and she always will need to be looked after, but she has come a long way. She has proved that recovery is a long and a very hard process ,but possible and worthy to achieve.

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Waseem Akhtar
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain the statement “Genie is living proof of human resiliency?

According to the text “The Civilizing of Genie," Genie is living proof of human resiliency. In other words Genie suffered a lot in her life but she had ability to get better and she proved to humanity the way she learned the language and the way she made her life better than before.

Genie was 13 years old when she was found in California . According to the text “ The Civilizing of Genie”, she was locked up in small room where she spent most of her infancy and childhood. At that time she wasn’t able to speak anything. She didn’t even know how to pronounce a word. She never spoke with her parents and she never learned anything from them.

Genie was really abused by her father. She had no love no fun no passion no game in her life . Genie case was opened when her mother ran away from her father and she took her child with her.

The psychologists who study about the brain development were curious to know what Genie’s mental level was at that time when she was found . At the time she was sent to hospital , She was pitiful , incontinent , and unsocialized . She was beginning to show signs of pubescence. She didn’t know how to chew . She did not know how to make a word . She lacked all those ability. They didn’t know that she would be able to develop her facilities because she had already crossed the critical period when she was supposed to learn language , but she didn’t learn anything at that time.

While Genie did not speak in a fully developed ,normal way , she acquired some language after she was discovered. They didn’t know if she would be able to develop her facilities because she had already crossed the critical period when she was supposed to learn language , but she didn’t learn anything at that time . According to the critical period theory , language can be learned only during the critical period between two years of age and puberty. According to Lenneberg , the brain of the child before the age of two is not sufficiently mature for the acquisition of language ; while after puberty, when brain organization is complete , it has lost its flexibility and can no longer acquire a first language. Genie proved him wrong in one sense. She did learn the language after puberty.

Genie inspired a California researcher Susan Curtiss, who worked with her. Curtiss really worked hard with Genie so she might be able to learn or say anything . When Curitss started working with genie , she began simply spending time with her or taking her to visit places in order to establish a relationship . She took Genie to the supermarket, where Genie walked around the store and examined the meats and the plastic containers with some curiosity.

During her first seven months of freedom, Genie had learned to recognize many new words . When Genie went with Curtiss to the home of one of the therapists , Genie went to the room and picked up a decorate pillow. When they asked what it was, she replied “pillow ” .

At first Genie spoke only few words like small children. A few months later she started stringing two word together but, unlike normal children genie never asked any questions and she didn’t understand much grammar. Her speech development was slow, but after she really worked hard , genie began making up two words together.

Genie was proof of human resiliency because she had so much trouble in infancy. She spent most of her infancy in a small room and she didn’t have that love in her life that she was supposed to get it. She proved to the humanity that she could learn language that she was supposed to learn in her infancy. Genie was a good example for all of the humanity that they shouldn’t dislike their children .They should give them love that they need in their infancy.

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Edenson Gedeon
ESL 91
Fall, 2003

Essay Topic: Explain how Genie’s language development fits into the theories of Lenneberg, Chomsky and Skinner”.

According to Lenneberg, Chomsky and Skinner who talk about the development of language, Genie’s case supports each of their theories. Lenneberg believes that the brain of a child is not sufficiently mature for the acquisition of language. While Chomsky reveals that everyone had an innate knowledge of the grammar of their native language. Finally Skinner says that children must be taught all aspects of language by imitating other people. When we look at these scientists theories, they each have a different view on language acquisition.

According to “ Noam Chomsky” theory, every body has an innate knowledge of the grammar of their native language, which means that no one needs to teach you the grammar of your native language. This theory relates to Genie’s experience because, in “ The civilizing of Genie” by Maya Pines, Genie’s mother reported that, during Genie’s first year of life before she was isolated from the rest of her family, she seemed to be have been on the road to language acquisition. Genie’s mother had heard Genie saying words right after she was locked up in the small room But as Chomsky adds to his theory in order for acquisition of language to be completed, the brain must be exposed at the proper time. As a result Genie could not develop it normally because she was not exposed to language.

On the other hand Skinner believed that all children must be taught all aspects of language, and that they learn the rules of their native language by imitating what they hear in their environment. Genie’s case supports Skinner’s theory. Because she was not exposed to language, she was unable to produce it normally. When Genie was locked up in the room, there were a lot of things she was missing which could help her to develop language acquisition. These were lack of communication; according to the essay Maya states that, her father never talked to her and no body else could. Another one is being socialized; Genie spent more than eleven years not living with people. She could not see things she would like to see. According to the essay Maya says that after Genie got her freedom, every house she went to seemed exciting to her because she had never seen certain things before. And the most important thing she missed was education; as a result when she was freed her knowledge was lower than a one year old child. She did not speak in a fully normal way. At first it did not seem possible that she could ever attend any school. As a result, this could be the reason why Maya Pines states that “Genie behavior was like that of a wild child”. In this case like Skinner says, it seems like she suffered from being pass the time for exposition to language.

However, according to Lenneberg who put forth the theory of language acquisition in 1967,” the brain of child before the age of two is not sufficiently mature for the acquisition of language, while after puberty, when the brain’s organization is complete, it has lost its flexibility and can no longer acquire a first language”. This theory refers to Genie’s experience because she could not grasp the difference between various pronouns or between active and passive verbs. So she appeared to suffer from having passed the critical period. Lenneberg is right because when Genie’s father put her in the room, she was only one and a half years old. Her brain was not sufficiently mature for the acquisition of language. As a result when she was freed, she was unable to acquire the language. Genie’s brain seems to have lost its plasticity.

As we can see, all these theories relate to Genie’s case. Even though every one has a different view on the acquisition of language; in some ways they are also kind of similar. How do we actually acquire language? We might use the following analogy from the book “Interdisciplinary English” to illustrate: There is a light switch in a room. All the circuitry necessary to turn on the lights is built into the wall. However, unless we flip the switch, the room remains dark. It is the same thing with language acquisition. The circuitry for learning language is built into our brains at birth. But, unless we are exposed to language, unless we hear the patterns of language, we will not experience normal language acquisition. There is a special time for that, which known as the Critical Period. The period starts from the age of two to twelve years old. If this time has passed, the language acquisition won’t develop normally like Genie’s case.

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Page last updated on November 26, 2003