The paper discusses the feral children and its development. "Feral" means wild or existing in a natural state. Feral children are those who have been abandoned or lost in the wilderness and have spent a significant amount of their formative years there. These child have lived without any direct human contact and often with the aid of wild animals who have adopted them into their groups. Though there are many legends of feral children, only a few cases have been documented and verified (see links below). Over the centuries, stories of feral children have intrigued many people - especially scientists and educators - for possible clues as to the effect of socialization on language and communication skills, learned aspects of human behavior and development and the true nature of humans. Studies of feral children have led to new methods for teaching children with learning disabilities, and indirectly to the development of Braille and sign language. Languages are complex and dynamic -- constantly evolving according to the needs of societies. To some degree humans appear to have the innate ability to form languages and many feral children learn to mimic animal sounds: barking, growling, whining, howling, bird sounds, etc., But research suggests that it takes the interaction with other humans to develop a form of communication with any degree of complexity. We are the result of complex interactions between the environment and our genes.
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Feral children and their development
Occasionally throughout our history, civilized society has come across a "wild child" who has grown up in isolation with virtually no human contact. Many researchers believe that we're born with the principles of language, but if a first language isn't acquired by puberty it may be too late -- we just don't have the neurological development. It also appears that there's a particular period in the life of humans when they're ripe for learning languages. Studies of feral children who have had little contact with humans during the critical ages of one through four years show that they've had tremendous difficulty mastering language and reintegrating with humans. (Candland, 1993)
Feral children are NOT the same as autistic or mentally retarded children - both of these conditions are due to aberrations of the normal biological developmental process. Children with these conditions are usually fully socialized to the limits of their capabilities. On the other hand, feral children may exhibit the usual range of biological developmental potential, but fail to develop normal human communication skills as a result of growing up in social isolation without proper models. Such skills are dependent upon continuous hearing, observation, mimicking and reinforcement to develop properly. (William, 2007)
Therefore, it is not surprising that feral children do not acquire these skills and rather that they may acquire those of their adoptive animal families during these critical socialization years (see stories in links about children raised with dogs, apes, wolves). This is due to the inherent plasticity of the nervous system in which, ...