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Volume 142, N ο. 3, 1997 Notions of the Deaf and Dumb before Instruction Especially in Regard to Religious Subjects Harvey Prindle Peet, ca. 1850. GALLYUDET University Archives. Harvey P. Peet That, as man had a beginning on the earth, so language also had a begin ning, is the starting point of the inquiry. In the present stage of psychological science, we may assume as a fact proved by all experience, that there can be no considerable intellectual development without a language, whether of words or of gestures. And the converse holds equally good that there can be no language , worthy to be called such, where there is not a certain degree of intellectual development. And yet, to those who are conversant with the deaf and dumb, and have studied their modes of thought and expression, nothing is clearer than that the language of gestures, in the improved and expanded stage which it soon reaches wherever a number of intelligent deaf-mutes are collected together, is sufficient, not merely for the communication of all ideas whatever, that can be expressed by words; but also as an instrument of thought, and of moral and intellectual development. Man can not be man without some mode of communication with his fellows, sufficient not merely for calling, warning, entreating , threatening, for which the instinctive cries of many species of animals suffice, but also for narrating, describing , questioning, answering, comparing , reasoning. But there are multitudes of deaf-mutes, capable of all this, and well developed mentally and morally, who yet never heard and never uttered a word; and whose knowledge of the conventional signs for words, furnished by alphabetic language, was not a means of mental development, but an accomplishment, necessary to intercourse with those who hear and speak, which had to be slowly and laboriously acquired by explanation and translation in their own language of gestures. Some cases we know in which the mental and moral development has reached a point decidedly beyond the average of unlettered speaking men, where yet there is either a very slight knowledge of words, or even none at all. While, then, we are ready to admit that speech is "the spontaneous result of man's organization, just as reason is," we must add that the language of gestures is also a "spontaneous result of man's organization." A language of articulation and intonation wakes sympathetic chords in the ear and brain; a language of gesture and expression equally speaks to the sympathies and Reprinted from Peet, H. P. 1855. Notions of the deaf and dumb before instruction, especially in regard to religious subjects. American Annals of the Deaf, 8(1), 1-44. Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 American Annals of the Deaf synideas (if we may be allowed to make a word.) Widely different as are the two languages in material, in structure , in the sense which they address, and in the mode of internal consciousness by which their signs are received, and by which they are used as the machinery of thought and reasoning; still, either alone, once well developed, is sufficient for all the wants of the human intellect. If speech is better adapted to generalization and abstraction , and hence to reasoning; pantomime is superior in graphic power, and sway over the passions. The man whose language is a language of gestures , because by the want of hearing he has been cut off from speech, is still not less than his brother who possesses speech, undeniably a man. This assertion may surprise those who recall the fearful state of ignorance and degradation of which so many deaf-mutes are painful examples. But the cause of this ignorance and degradation is not only the want of speech, but the want also of an improved and developed language of gestures. They were ignorant because those around them, either through dullness, stiffness, or indolence, were disqualified to aid them in developing their instinctive language of gestures to the degree necessary to enable them to profit by the experience of others, and to share in social communion. They were thus left without due exercise of the faculties in those years when that exercise is most important; and, above all, were cut...


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