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How deaf education and artificial language were linked in the 17th century

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Before the 1550s, it was generally believed that people who are born deaf are incapable of learning a natural language such as Spanish or English. This belief was nourished by the observation that hearing children normally acquire their speaking skills without explicit instruction, and that learning to read usually proceeds by first connecting individual letters to individual speech sounds, pronouncing them one by one, before a whole word is read and understood. Accordingly, it seemed obvious to many that, in the authoritative words of Aristotle, “written marks (are) symbols of spoken sounds.” Thus, for deaf children the road to learning a language like English seemed to be blocked forever. Acquiring speech by listening and imitating was obviously impossible. Written communication seemed equally unattainable, for if what is primarily signified by written letters (speech sounds) is not accessible to a person, there is no way such a person could learn to read. In the 1550s,. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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