The Signs of a Savant: Language Against The Odds

The Signs of a Savant: Language Against The Odds

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Neil Smith
Cambridge University Press, 1/17/2011
EAN 9780521617697, ISBN10: 0521617693

Paperback, 234 pages, 22.8 x 15.2 x 1.1 cm
Language: English

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.

1. Introducing Christopher
2. BSL
an overview
3. The programme
4. The results
5. Christopher in the wider context
6. Modality and the mind.

'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