Using a large-scale screening method to detect language disability in three-year-olds
Invited comment for Acta Paediatrica 89 (2000): 7-8.
Humans probably evolved the ability to use language under the pressure to exchange thoughts, ideas and experiences that are not bound by an immediate spatio-temporal frame. By using the conventions and the structure inherent to the linguistic code, humans are capable of referring to events or properties in a context-free, efficient and flexible way. In contrast with other species that do not use language because communication among individuals is focused on rather immediate and context-bound events that are apparent to the communicating individuals, humans must have learned how to use language to refer to events occurring in settings not necessarily linked to an actual physical context (Deacon, 1997). In this sense, the ability to use a system of conventions to exchange context-free information, the ability to negotiate that very code system and to use multiple sensory dimensions to communicate with others are unique human capacities, where speech communication is clearly an important modality of information exchange. Obviously then, language handicaps most likely will curtail an individual's capability to participate in the politico-social processes of her community, an impairment that most certainly will have negative consequences not only on a personal level but also impoverishes the society that may not have full access to that individual's contributions. Thus, given the central role played by human speech communication, the issue addressed by Westerlund and Sundelin is of great importance. (...)