International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss


Prodigious Polyglot Savants: The Enigmatic Adjoining of Language Acquisition and Emaciated Potential
Elham H. Ammari

Affluent research has profoundly dealt with the aggregate umbrella term of developmental disorders. It has equally identified a host of disparate types that in one way or another daunt afflicted individuals’ every day living. The heterogeneous nature of these pervasive and distinct kinds has resulted in academic pros and cons as regards labels, diagnosis, prevalence, taxonomies, causes, theories, profiles, treatments and the underlying brain mechanisms. Consequently, conflicting views, conceptual diversity and overlapping boundaries have led to a lack of a delineated clear-cut distinction pertinent to savant syndrome, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), high functioning autism (HFA), Asperger syndrome (AS), synesthesia, and many other related disorders. Savant syndrome occurrence and prevalence has been observed in some autistic individuals, (Treffert 2007; Dowker et al. 1996), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, dementia, schizophrenia, visual impairments (Bölte & Poustka 2004); Asperger syndrome (Fitzgerald & Corvin 2001) and synesthesia (Bor et al 2007; Tammet 2006, 2009). Conversely, this blurry situation has largely to do with the existence of a huge number of individuals displaying simultaneously more than one disorder like being an autistic and savant, or being a synesthete and savant. (Treffert. 2000; Hiles 2002; Snyder & Mitchel 2009, Smith & Tsimpli 1995, Snyder 2009 to cite just some). This in turn has been reflected on the deterred, aberrant advancement of individuals. Savant syndrome is a fascinating rare condition that deals with imbecile individuals with mental and/or physical impairments who concurrently show phenomenal, awe-inspiring knowledge in a rather partial, yet deep scope of repertoire hence showing incongruence of these talents with the overall limited capabilities. This common sense-defying knowledge pertains primarily to their eidetic and massive feats and flukes of memory that entitles some to achieve a genius-like status. Savant condition is bound to either congenital anomalies in the left brain hemisphere or to exposure to brain damage or diseases in the same area sometime later in life which could result in acquired savantism. Treffert (1989, 2000, 2005, 2009). Savantism has a spectrum of prodigy allocating each and every realm its attributes: prodigious, splinter and talented savants. (Treffert 1989). Additionally, some savants display a triad of blindness, arts and brilliance. Their domains of expertise is inclusive of music, calendrical and calculating abilities, arts, mechanical and spatial skills, and geographical orientations. However, a hardly present trait by the vast majority of savants is polyglottism by means of which the mastery of multiple foreign languages is demonstrated though with a low IQ and without formal instruction. (Smith & Tsimpli, 1995, Tsimpli, & Smith 1996; Nettlebeck & Young 1999; Bates, 1997; Heaton & Wallace 2004, Trefferet 1989, 2000, 2010). Hence, fervent researchers, canny entrepreneurs and visionary scientists have hailed resorting to many advanced brain imaging tools as PET1 and TMS scans, to identify areas of the brain, particularly, the left brain hemisphere where the claimed damage could have taken place impacting the overall brain function and consequently, behavioral patterns of affected persons (Snyder 2001, 2006, 2009). This theoretical- descriptive study aims at exploring savants’ specific areas of brilliance in language, their impact on their surroundings, and the obstacles facing them. Another goal is to elucidate their asymmetric polished as well as darkened profiles as portrayed in the literature. A final objective is to glean what panaceas have been offered to provide bona fide aids to this category of people. Unequivocal results demonstrate that savants have contributed positively to their peerages and societies at large, some of which have even influenced populations in the millions as public educational tools as is the case of Kim peek, a severely mentally retarded savant; and Tammet, a prodigious, high functioning autistic savant, and a digit synesthete. However, the contributions of Christopher, the polyglot savant, are evident in the mastery of many languages serving mainly research rather than his peers and society. Ultimately, their pockets of brilliance vis-à-vis general impairments are no barriers to success and social accreditations and enrichments. Further conclusions provide some insights into future research.

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