Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/504

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Facts of a strictly scientific character are furnished by the study of deaf-mutes. In my boyhood I was well acquainted with one of these so-called unfortunates. He was a blacksmith, having learned the trade from his father, and was associated with him in the business. When the father desired him to do anything he addressed him in his natural voice: "Dan, I want you to make a lot of horse-shoe nails"; or he might speak of something that had no connection with the shop as: "To-morrow we will plant corn." This young man had never had any systematic instruction and simply "picked up" his knowledge of English. In order to get some further light on the connexus of speech with thought I addressed a letter of inquiry to superintendent Jones of the Ohio Asylum for the Deaf. I quote from his reply.

I take it your questions refer to the congenitally and totally deaf children. Uneducated deaf-mutes would likely have an inarticulate noise to designate a horse or a cow. Many such children have no such noise at all, but designate them by marks or signs. Educated deaf children under the latest system of teaching speech would have a distinct articulate name for "horse" or "cow," and in fact for all objects, actions, etc.; not so clear however as the hearing person but yet clear enough to be understood. The deaf-mute carries on processes of reasoning just like the hearing person. Speech is not necessary to reasoning, neither is language. To those who are familiar with the uneducated deaf child, it is well known that he is in no wise apparently different from his hearing brother. If nature's touch has not dwarfed or deformed his mental powers, he is alert, active, quick to comprehend, quick to act and responsive to calls upon his attention. His body is vibrant with energy and yields readily to the activities of play and games. He answers the call of his parents to do chores about the house with the same interest and enthusiasm as the other children. He is familiar with the fields, orchards, trees which are near and around his home. He is acquainted with the call of the physician and the visit to the dentist and oculist, and knows the official function of one from the other. Every piece of household furniture he knows and its use. He knows the domestic from the wild animal; the one to pet and the other to flee from. In fact as far as ideas are concerned he has perhaps as clear a conception of the uses of everything around him as the other members of the household. Yet he knows not a name of one. The accepted philosophy up to the close of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth declared that the deaf child could not be instructed because he lacked language. This doctrine was upheld by some of the brightest minds that our most enlightened countries of the middle ages and thereafter furnished. It was however discovered that a great many bright deaf people had learned to express themselves in various ways, showing their minds as abounding in good ideas with an understanding of the nature and work of almost every thing with which they came in contact, although they were unable to speak, read or write a single word.

The facts above reported, as well as those that have come under my own observation, partake largely of the mysterious. Speaking for myself, I can not comprehend how it is possible to carry on a process of reasoning wholly without the use of words. Such vagaries as we find in "Alice in Wonderland" are not the product of reason, but rather of the constructive imagination as distinguished from the creative. They are