Case Study: Genie

Genie’s Case and the Critical Period Hypothesis for the Development of Language

The critical period hypothesis for language development states that the ability to develop a language cannot extend beyond puberty due to maturation in the human brain (Cherry, 2018). Proponents of critical period hypothesis hold that by the age of twelve, the organization of the brain will have completed and it becomes hardly possible for one to develop a new language.Genie’s case supports the critical period hypothesis. After living in seclusion beyond the critical period of language learning, she found it difficult to learn grammar even though she learned new words.

According to the case in the video, Genie was rescued at the age of thirteen after she had already completed the critical period stage.Linguistic researchers were interested in the case with the goal of determining whether she could develop language after years of isolation. Genie learned new words during her first year of assessment, but did not develop grammar. One of the speakers in the video comments that “…While Genie was able to learn some language after puberty, her inability to use grammar…offers evidence for critical period hypothesis…”  Kelly (2018) explains that critical period lasts to the age of twelve years, beyond which the brain cannot develop a new language.(Society, 1997). Grammar distinguishes people from animals. It is an essential measure of language learning.Even though she could ape and memorize new words, the inability to process grammar indicates that her brain had matured and she could not reorganize it to learn new languages. The finding from Genie's case is vital for language development and learning. The critical period hypothesis proved in Genie's case study indicates the need to expose learners to languages in the early years to capitalize on advantages offered by brain development.

Ethical Dilemma in Genie’s Case

The ethical dilemma is common in researches that use human subjects. According to the video (Society, 1997), moral dilemma prevented rigorous research to take place. Scientific research could have required an in-depth analysis of the causes of language development to explain the critical period hypothesis for language development.Scientific research does not take into consideration the rights of the subject in the study. For this case, moral rights of Genie such as the right to privacy, non-maleficence, respect to life, and concern for autonomy.One of the speakers in the video comments that “…if you want to do rigorous science, genies rights are going to come second some of the time…”(Cherry, 2018).Scientific research should provide full findings that future researchers can use to understand the critical period for language development. The ethical dilemma is preventing significant progress in research on Genie's case.

My Opinion on Life without a Spoken Language

Spoken language distinguishes humans from animals. If we did not have the spoken language, I do not think that we would have made some of the progresses witnessed in human history.Significant innovations such as telephones, automobiles, and learning were developed to keep humans connected. In the absence of spoken language, humans could be communicating using symbols.The world could also be dull, considering that spoken language keeps communication active.Just like the case of Genie, we could be socially isolated from others. A few people could sit in groups conversing using rudimentary signs and symbols.

In spite of the above limitations, I think that life could also be comfortable in the absence of language. We would not have noise pollution in urban centers. Additionally, spoken language has kept people isolated from others. Learned people hardly find time to stay with illiterate people. Some communities sacrificed their values to learn foreign languages. It is nearly impossible for people to find employment opportunities without proving competency in foreign languages.Spoken languages have separated communities instead of keeping them connected.I have not lived in a world without spoken language, but I think that life could have been relatively better compared to the noisy world we have today.


Cherry, K. (2018).Overview of the feral child Genie Wiley.Verywell Mind. Retrieved from

Society (1997).Genie: Secret of the wild child

. Retrieved from

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