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Questions assignment

Question Formation
● Come up with 5 questions about the content of the paper, especially the main

components like the claims, the data provided to support the claims, and the
authors’ interpretation of data

● Make sure the questions are relevant to the article
● Make sure the questions are specific to the content of the paper and cannot just

be asked about any article
● Make sure the questions do not assume false information according to the article

Example for Weikum et al (2009):
1. Is visual information redundant for vocal language processing according to this

article?
2. To test visual language discrimination in infancy, which age range of infants is

used for the study and what is the sample size?
3. Why does the study compare monolingual infants with bilingual infants?
4. What does the study conclude for bilingual children’s language development?
5. How does the study measure infants’ language discrimnation?

But avoid vague and general questions like:
● What is the article about?
● What did the scientists test?
● How did they test their hypothesis?

If you can ask a question for any scientific paper, then it is too general.

Avoid asking questions that assume false information according to the article:
● Why are adults incapable of discriminating languages solely based on visual

information?
This question assumes adults are not capable of visual discrimination even though the
article says the opposite.

Questions assignment

Centre, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn,
New York 11203, USA
e-mail: stalwar@netmail.hscbklyn.edu
†School of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel
University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania 19104, USA

1. Skinner, B. F. The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental

Analysis (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1938).

2. Loucks, R. B. J. Comp. Psychol. 16, 439–444 (1933).

3. Olds, J. & Milner, P. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 47,

419–427 (1954).

4. Olds, M. E. & Fobes, J. L. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 32, 523–574 (1981).

5. Doty, R. W. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 20, 289–320 (1969).

6. Romo, R., Hernández, A., Zainos, A., Brody, C. & Lemus, L.

Neuron 26, 273–278 (2000).

7. Deutsch, J. A. J. Theor. Biol. 4, 193–214 (1963).

8. Gallistel, C. R. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 69, 713–721 (1969).

9. Fukuda, M., Kobayashi, T., Bures, J. & Ono, T.

J. Neurosci. Methods 44, 121–131 (1992).

10. Hawley, E. S., Hargeaves, E. L., Kubie, J. L., Rivard, B. &

Muller, R. U. Hippocampus (in the press).

Competing financial interests: declared none.

We next investigated whether early
experience of a signed language facilitates
subsequent learning of a spoken language.
We tested three groups of adults who had
learned English in school at comparable
ages between 4 and 13 years and who had
used it for over 12 years. One group
(n414) was born profoundly deaf and
had had little language experience before
being exposed to ASL in school; the sec-
ond group (n413) was born profoundly
deaf and had experienced ASL in infancy;
the third group (n413) was born hearing
and had experienced various spoken lan-
guages in infancy (Urdu, French, German,
Italian or Greek). Deaf and hearing adults
who had experienced either a signed or a
spoken language in early life showed
similarly high levels of performance on the
later learned language, English, whereas
deaf adults who had little experience
of language in early life showed low
levels of performance (Fig. 1; F2,37411.32,
P*0.0001).

Our results show that the ability to learn
language arises from a synergy between
early brain development and language
experience, and is seriously compromised
when language is not experienced during
early life. This is consistent with current
knowledge about how experience affects
visual development in animals9 and
humans10, and about learning and brain
development in animals11,12. The timing
of the initial language experience during
human development strongly influences
the capacity to learn language throughout
life, regardless of the sensorimotor form of
the early experience.
Rachel I. Mayberry*, Elizabeth Lock†,
Hena Kazmi‡
*School of Communication Sciences and Disorders,
McGill University, 1266 Pine Avenue West,
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1A8, Canada
e-mail: rachel.mayberry@mcgill.ca
†Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa,
4418-501 Smyth Road, Ottawa,
Ontario K1H 8L6, Canada
‡School of Communication Sciences and Disorders,
University of Western Ontario, Elborn College,
London, Ontario N6G 1H1, Canada

1. Colombo, J. Psychol. Bull. 91, 260–275 (1982).

2. Lenneberg, E. Biological Foundations of Language (Wiley,

New York, 1967).

3. Johnson, J. & Newport, E. Cogn. Psychol. 21, 60–69 (1989).

4. Newport, E. Cogn. Sci. 14, 11–28 (1990).

5. Mayberry, R. I. & Eichen, E. J. Mem. Lang. 30, 486–512 (1991).

6. Emmorey, K., Bellugi, U., Friederici, A. & Horn, P.

Appl. Psycholing. 16, 1–23 (1995).

7. Mayberry, R. I. J. Speech Hearing Res. 36, 51–68 (1993).

8. Mayberry, R. I. in Child Neuropsychology (eds Segalowitz, S. J.

& Rapin, I.) (Elsevier, Amsterdam, in the press).

9. Wiesel, T. N. Nature 299, 583–591 (1982).

10. Goldberg, M. C., Maurer, D., Lewis, T. L. & Brent, H. P.

Dev. Neuropsychol. 19, 55–81 (2001).

11. Greenough, W. T. & Black, J. E. in Developmental Behavioral

Neuroscience (eds Gunna, M. R. & Nelson, C. A.) 155–200

(Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1992).

12. Kolb, B., Forgie, M., Gibb, R., Gorny, G. & Rowntree, S.

Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 22, 143–159 (1998).

Competing financial interests: declared none.

38 NATURE | VOL 417 | 2 MAY 2002 | www.nature.com

hippocampal place cells9. Our model may
also represent an extension of operant
conditioning into useful real-world applica-
tions, such as search and rescue in areas of
urban destruction and landmine detection.
Combined with electronic sensing and
navigation technology, a guided rat can be
developed into an effective ‘robot’ that will
possess several natural advantages over
current mobile robots. Moreover, the ability
to receive brain sensory activity remotely10

and interpret it accurately could allow a
guided rat to function as both a mobile
robot and a biological sensor.
Sanjiv K. Talwar*, Shaohua Xu*,
Emerson S. Hawley*, Shennan A. Weiss*,
Karen A. Moxon†, John K. Chapin*
*Department of Physiology and Pharmacology,
State University of New York, Downstate Medical

brief communications

learned American Sign Language (ASL) at
school between the matched ages of 9 and
15 years and who had used it for over two
decades. One group (n49) was born hear-
ing, had experienced spoken English in
early life, and had later learned ASL after
becoming profoundly deaf (à90 decibels)
as a result of viral infection; the second
group (n49) was born profoundly deaf
and had had little experience of language
before being exposed to ASL in school
(auditory speech-perception abilities were at
chance levels even with hearing aids). Deaf
adults who had little experience of language
in early life showed low levels of ASL per-
formance; in contrast, late-deafened adults
showed high levels of ASL performance
(Fig. 1; paired t44.17; d.f., 8; P*0.001).

Development

Linguistic ability and
early language exposure

F
or more than 100 years, the scientific
and educational communities have
thought that age is critical to the out-

come of language learning1,2, but whether
the onset and type of language experienced
during early life affects the ability to learn
language is unknown. Here we show that
deaf and hearing individuals exposed to lan-
guage in infancy perform comparably well in
learning a new language later in life, whereas
deaf individuals with little language experi-
ence in early life perform poorly, regardless
of whether the early language was signed or
spoken and whether the later language was
spoken or signed. These findings show that
language-learning ability is determined by
the onset of language experience during
early brain development, independent of the
specific form of the experience.

The ability to learn language, whether
spoken or signed, declines with age3–6. How
the onset and type of the initial language
experience contributes to this critical-
period phenomenon is unclear. This question
cannot be investigated by studying hearing
individuals only, because the factors of age
and experience are inseparable in these
individuals — all hearing babies experience
language from birth. But the question can
be investigated by studying individuals who
were born deaf, because they often do not
experience any language until they are
enrolled in special programmes7,8. We
therefore compared the language-learning
capacities of deaf and hearing individuals as
a function of early language experience.

We first investigated whether early experi-
ence of a spoken language could facilitate
subsequent learning of a signed language.
We tested two groups of adults who had

Figure 1 Effects of early experience on later language learning.

a, American Sign Language (ASL) performance of deaf adults who

had experienced no language in early life, and of deaf adults who

had experienced spoken language in early life. Subjects were

tested using a task requiring recall of complex ASL sentences.

b, English performance of deaf adults who had had no experience

of language in early life, of deaf adults who had experienced ASL

in infancy, and of hearing adults who had experienced a spoken

language other than English in infancy. Subjects were tested using

a task requiring judgements of whether complex English sentences

given in print were grammatically correct; chance performance is

50%. Further details are available from the authors.

0

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No early
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Early experience

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