Rutgers University, New Brunswick
One of the central questions that Eric Lenneberg raised in his seminal book, Biological Foundations of Language is: What is the relationship between language comprehension and language production? This paper reviews Lenneberg’s case study of a child with congenital anarthria and then presents the results of two studies that investigate the relationship between phoneme perception and production. The first study investigates the phoneme identification skills of a child with developmental apraxia who, like the anarthric child studied by Lenneberg, had essentially no speech yet had no difficulty understanding speech. The second study investigates the extent to which 28 typically-developing children’s ability to identify phonemes is related to their ability to produce phonemes. The results of both studies support Lenneberg’s conclusion that children’s ability to perceive speech is not dependent on their ability to produce speech. Thus, Lenneberg’s original case study and the two studies presented in this paper argue against gestural theories of speech perception such as the Motor Theory.