Revisiting the Case for ‘Feral’ Humans Under the Light of the Human Self-Domestication Hypothesis: Focusing on Language


  • Amy Niego
  • Antonio Benítez-Burraco Orcid


Contemporary descriptions of ‘feral’ children generally preclude any insightful inference about the language deficits exhibited by these children, as well as the ultimate causes of their problems with language. However, they have been regularly used to support the view that language acquisition requires a proper social environment in order to occur. In this paper, we revisit the case for ‘feral’ children with the viewpoint that human evolution entailed a process of self-domestication that parallels what we find in domesticated animals. Because feralization commonly occurs in nature and because it entails a partial reversion of features of domestication, this self-domestication approach to the evolution of language reassesses the case for ‘feral’ children, particularly when compared with present-day conditions involving abnormal patterns of socialization, whether they are genetically-triggered as in autism spectrum disorder, or environmentally-triggered, as in reactive attachment disorder.