Chapter 4. Language acquisition in developmental disorders

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In this chapter, I review recent research into language acquisition in developmental disorders, and the light that these findings shed on the nature of language acquisition in typically developing children. Disorders considered include Specific Language Impairment, autism, Down syndrome, and Williams syndrome. I argue that disorders of language should be construed in terms of differences in the constraints that shape the learning process, rather than in terms of the normal system with components missing or malfunctioning. I outline the integrative nature of this learning process and how properties such as redundancy and compensation may be key characteristics of learning systems with atypical constraints. These ideas, as well as the new methodologies now being used to study variations in pathways of language acquisition, are illustrated with case studies from Williams syndrome and Specific Language Impairment.


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