A comparison of language in retarded children with language development of normal children indicates that there is a “natural language-learning strategy” that cannot be altered by training programs. Language unfolds lawfully and in regular stages. Language progress in the retarded appears to be primarily controlled by their biological maturation and their development of organizational principles rather than intelligent insight. The pathologically lowered IQ of the retarded does not result in bizarre use of language but merely in “frozen” but normal primitive language stages.
A remarkable degree of language competence is achieved by the congenitally deaf, despite apparently overwhelming handicaps. Thus, language may still develop under very abnormal conditions. The specific teaching of grammatical rules (no matter whether they are old-fashioned ones or modern) does not appear to help the children substantially in their language development. There is no reason to doubt that their language proficiency would develop in the same manner as it develops in the hearing who are simply given a great number of grammatical (and often semigrammatical) sentences from which they abstract the structural principles by which they themselves begin then to form new sentences. Deaf children could hardly differ in the capacity for doing this from hearing children, provided they were given enough examples and are allowed to go through a natural order of grammatical development. We do not know how hearing children develop their ability to abstract structural principles, and we do not know how deaf children might do it. But this is no reason to try to instill language habits by means (teaching of grammatical rules) which have never been shown to be of any use for any other language-learning child.