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The Signs of a Savant
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    WOLL, BENCIE and MORGAN, GARY 2012. Language impairments in the development of sign: Do they reside in a specific modality or are they modality-independent deficits?. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Vol. 15, Issue. 01, p. 75.

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Book description

Every once in a while nature gives us insight into the human condition by providing us with a unique case whose special properties illuminate the species as a whole. Christopher is such an example. Despite disabilities which mean that everyday tasks are burdensome chores, Christopher is a linguistic wonder who can read, write, speak, understand and translate more than twenty languages. On some tests he shows a severely low IQ, hinting at ineducability, yet his English language ability indicates an IQ in excess of 120 (a level more than sufficient to enter university). Christopher is a savant, someone with an island of startling talent in a sea of inability. This book documents his learning of British Sign Language, casting light on the modularity of cognition, the modality neutrality of the language faculty, the structure of memory, the grammar of signed language and the nature of the human mind.

Reviews

‘This fascinating case study of a linguistic savant offers important insights into how developmental disorders may affect acquisition of sign.'

Richard P. Meier - University of Texas, Austin

‘This penetrating study of a unique mind provides rich and original insight into cognitive architecture and sign and spoken language.'

Noam Chomsky - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

'This is a book for anyone interested in languages or the mind more generally. It was fortunate that the authors had contact with C. over such a long period of time so that they could share with us this detailed picture of an extremely interesting case of a language savant. Moreover, it is engagingly written, even as it is packed with detailed information. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in memory, atypical learners, sign language, or cognition.'

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