Make your own free website on
| Home | Nativist Theory | Non-Nativist Theory | Theorists | Language | The Genie Case | References
The Genie Case

Language Development

Enter subhead content here


Genie's condition when discovered 

When Genie was discovered she was not a customed to wearing clothing, failed to react to temperatures such as hot or cold, had never eaten solid foods, so she didn’t know how to chew and had difficulties swallowing, low ability to move, she could only walk with difficulty, she was near sighted to the exact size of the room that she was confined to as a child, and the only type of vocalization she was capable of was a whimper. She was extremely malnourished, and unsocialised.


 Background summary

In 1970 the case of “Genie” emerged, a severely neglected and abused child who was developmentally delayed due to the conditions in which she was raised.  The relationship between her mother and father was abusive; her mother lived in fear of what he would do. Prior to the birth of Genie, her parents had several other children all of which had died other than one boy who Genie’s grandmother had adopted. After the death of Genie’s grandmother, the family moved into her house where the father held them prisoners from the outside world. For the majority of Genie’s childhood she was strapped to a potty chair, or at night caged with chicken wire into her crib, never permitted to leave her tiny room. Genie lived in almost complete silence with little to no auditory stimulation for 13 years. After a violent rage between Genies’s parents, both her and her mother fled to Genie's maternal grandmother.  When Genie’s mother tried to apply for financial assistance, the case of Genie was finally reported to authorities.

For the purpose of this web site we are focusing on Genie's language development. The tragic environment which Genie was in  during her childhood was absolutely horrible but because of those conditions her case is very important to researchers, due to the fact that cases such as Genie do not arise very often, and it is not ethical to create such subjects. There have been other cases similar to Genie’s such as Helen Keller and Victor "the boy from the woods".



Genie's Development

Phonology: Genie’s acquisition of Phonology is comparable to that  a child with typical phonological development but also differs too.


Syntax: Genie didn’t do this until she possessed approximately 100-200 words. Her first sentences were mainly noun phrases,where children with typical development begin with


sentences that are equational (dat-mine).

Morphology: Genie’s speech and sentences are “ telegraphic” which means she neglects to include a lot of grammatical formatives, modals, plurals, and possessives in her speech.
Semantics: Most children developing language tend to over
generalize semantic representation in real life, however Genie didn’t,
because Genie doesn’t use word as labels unlessinstructed to.
Similarly to children with autism schizophrenia Genie attaches phrases as labels
Comprehension & Production: Genie displays a lot of variability in the rules of Syntactic production. Also there is a fairly large  gap
between Genie's comprehension and her production. There is such a large gap that if someone with the correct training were to study one of the two components the findings would not be slightly comparable
lCompetence/ Performance: The linguistic ability demonstrated by Genie on test and scales is not accurate of her actual ability using language. To take this into consideration we must recognize that nonlinguistic factors may be to blame.
Results of the Genie study
 There are areas of the Genie case that relate to both side of the nature vs nurture debate. Nature – Genie was never able to master language acqusison due to the critical period hypothesis, Genie was dominantly a right hemisphere thinker which would explain why she had difficulties producing and preforming language Boca's area is possible located somewhere in the left hemisphere and also the left hemisphere is typically more efficient for performing language related tasks and comprehension.