1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Deaf and Dumb

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DEAF AND DUMB.[1] The term “deaf” is frequently applied to those who are deficient in hearing power in any degree, however slight, as well as to people who are unable to detect the loudest sounds by means of the auditory organs. It is impossible to draw a hard and fast line between the deaf and the hearing at any particular point. For the purposes of this article, however, that denotation which is generally accepted by educators of the deaf may be given to the term. This makes it refer to those who are so far handicapped as to be incapable of instruction by the ordinary means of the ear in a class of those possessing normal hearing. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is yet true to say that “dumbness” in our sense of the word does not, strictly speaking, exist, though the term “dumb” may, for all practical purposes, fairly be applied to many of the deaf even after they are supposed to have learnt how to speak. Oral teachers now confess that it is not worth while to try to teach more than a large percentage of the deaf to speak at all. We are not concerned with aphasia, stammering or such inability to articulate as may be due to malformation of the vocal organs. In the case of the deaf and dumb, as these words are generally understood, dumbness is merely the result of ignorance in the use of the voice, this ignorance being due to the deafness. The vocal organs are perfect. The deaf man can laugh, shout, and in fact utter any and every sound that the normal person can. But he does not speak English (if that happens to be his nationality) for the same reason that a French child does not, which is that he has never heard it. There is in fact no more a priori reason why an English baby, born in England, should talk English than that it should talk any other language. English may be correctly described as its “mother tongue,” but not its natural language; the only reason why one person speaks English and another Russian is that each imitated that particular language which he heard in infancy. This imitation depends upon the ability to hear. Hence if one has never heard, or has lost hearing in early childhood, he has never been able to imitate that language which his parents and others used, and the condition of so-called dumbness is added to his deafness. From this it follows that if the sense of hearing be not lost till the child has learnt to speak fluently, the ability to speak is unaffected by the calamity of deafness, except that after many years the voice is likely to become high-pitched, or too guttural, or peculiar in some other respect, owing to the absence of the control usually exercised by the ear. It also follows that, to a certain extent, the art of speech can be taught the deaf person even though he were born deaf. Theoretically, he is capable of talking just as well as his hearing brother, for the organs of speech are as perfect in one as in the other, except that they suffer from lack of exercise in the case of the deaf man. Practically, he can never speak perfectly, for even if he were made to attempt articulation as soon as he is discovered to be deaf, the fact that the ear, the natural guide of the voice, is useless, lays upon him a handicap which can never be wiped out. He can never hear the tone of his teacher’s voice nor of his own; he can only see small and, in many instances, scarcely discernible movements of the lips, tongue, nose, cheeks and throat in those who are endeavouring to teach him to speak, and he can never hope to succeed in speech through the instrumentality of such unsatisfactory appeals to his eye as perfectly as the hearing child can with the ideal adaptation of the voice to the ear. Sound appeals to the ear, not the eye, and those who have to rely upon the latter to imitate speech must suffer by comparison.

Deafness then, in our sense, means the incapacity to be instructed by means of the ear in the normal way, and dumbness means only that ignorance of how to speak one’s mother tongue which is the effect of the deafness.

Of such deaf people many can hear sound to some extent. Dr Kerr Love quotes several authorities (Deaf Mutism, pp. 58 ff.) to show that 50 or 60% are absolutely deaf, while 25% can detect loud sounds such as shouting close to the ear, and the rest can distinguish vowels or even words. He himself thinks that not more than 15 or 20% are totally deaf—sometimes only 7 or 8%; that ability to hear speech exists in about one in four, while ten or fifteen in each hundred are only semi-deaf. He rightly warns against the use of tuning forks or other instruments held on the bones of the head as tests of hearing, because the vibration which is felt, not heard, may very often be mistaken for sound.

Dr Edward M. Gallaudet, president of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., suggests the following terms for use in dividing the whole class of the deaf into its main sections, though it is obviously impossible to split them up into perfectly defined subdivisions, where, as a matter of fact, you have each degree of deafness and dumbness shading into the next:—the speaking deaf, the semi-speaking deaf, the mute deaf (or deaf-mute), the speaking semi-deaf, the mute semi-deaf, the hearing mute and the hearing semi-mute. He points out that the last two classes are usually persons of feeble mental power. We should exclude these altogether from the list, since their hearing is, presumably, perfect, and should add the semi-speaking semi-deaf before the mute semi-deaf. This would give two main divisions—those who cannot hear at all, and those who have partial hearing—with three subsections in each main division—those who speak, those who have partial speech and those who do not speak at all. Where the hearing is perfect it is paradoxical to class a person with the deaf, and the dumbness in such a case is due (where there is no malformation of the vocal organs) to inability of the mind to pay attention to, and imitate, what the ear really hears. In such cases this mental weakness is generally shown in other ways besides that of not hearing sounds. Probably no sign will be given of recognizing persons or objects around; there will be in fact, a general incapacity of the whole body and senses. It is incorrect to designate such persons as deaf and feeble-minded or deaf and idiotic, because in many cases their organs of hearing are as perfect as are other organs of their body, and they are no more deaf than blind, though they may pay no attention to what they hear any more than to what they see. They are simply weak in intellect, and this is shown by the disuse of any and all of their senses; hence it is incorrect to classify them according to one, and one only, of the evidences of this mental weakness.

Extent of Deafness.—The following table shows the number of deaf and dumb persons in the United Kingdom at successive censuses:—

Year. Number of Deaf and Dumb Persons.
& Wales.
Scotland. Ireland.
1851 17,649 10,314 2155 5180
1861 20,224 12,236 2335 5653
1871 19,159 11,518 2087 5554
1881 20,573 13,295 2142 5136
1891 20,781 14,192 2125 4464
1901 21,855 15,246 2638 3971

From this we find that the proportion of deaf and dumb to the population has been as follows:—

Year.  Proportion of Deaf and Dumb to the Population. 
& Wales.
Scotland. Ireland.
1851 1 in 1550 1 in 1739 1 in 1340 1 in 1264
1861 1 in 1430 1 in 1639 1 in 1310 1 in 1025
1871 1 in 1642 1 in 1972 1 in 1610 1 in 974
1881 1 in 1694 1 in 1953 1 in 1745 1 in 1008
1891 1 in 1814 1 in 2040 1 in 1893 1 in 1053
1901 1 in 1897 1 in 2132 1 in 1694 1 in 1122

There has, therefore, been on the whole a steady decrease of those described as “deaf and dumb” in proportion to the population in Great Britain and Ireland. But in the census for 1901, in addition to the 15,246 returned as “deaf and dumb” in England and Wales, 18,507 were entered as being “deaf,” 2433 of whom were described as having been “deaf from childhood.”

Mr B. H. Payne, the principal of the Royal Cambrian Institution, Swansea, makes the following remarks upon these figures:—

“The natural conclusion, of course, is that there has been a large increase, relative as well as absolute, of the class in which we are interested, which we call the deaf, and which includes the deaf and dumb. Indeed, the number, large as it is, cannot be considered as complete, for the schedules did not require persons who were only deaf to state their infirmity, and, though many did so, it may be presumed that more did not.

“On the other hand, circumstances exist which may reasonably be held to modify the conclusion that there has been a large relative increase of the deaf. The spread of education, the development of local government, and an improved system of registration, may have had the effect of procuring fuller enumeration and more appropriate classification than heretofore, while 1368 persons described simply as dumb, and who therefore probably belong, not to the deaf, but to the feeble-minded and aphasic classes, are included in the ‘deaf and dumb’ total. It is also to be noted that some of those who described themselves as ‘deaf’ though not born so may have been educated in the ordinary way before they lost their hearing, and are therefore outside the sphere of the operation of schools for the deaf.

“In connexion with the census of 1891, it has been remarked in the report of the institution that no provision was made in the schedules for distinguishing the congenital from the non-congenital deaf, and that it was desirable to draw such a distinction. To ascertain the relative increase or decrease of one or the other section of the class would contribute to our knowledge of the incidence of known causes of deafness or to the confirmation or discovery of other causes, and so far indicate the appropriate measures of prevention, while such an inquiry as that recommended has, besides, a certain bearing upon educational views.

“The exact number of ‘deaf and dumb’ and ‘deaf’ children who are of school age cannot be ascertained from the census tables, which give the numbers in quinquennial age-groups, while the school age is seven to sixteen. It is a pity that in this respect the functions of the census department are not co-ordinated with those of the Board of Education.”

Dr John Hitz, the superintendent of the Volta Bureau for the Increase of Knowledge Relating to the Deaf, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., gives the number of schools for deaf children, and pupils, in different countries in 1900 as follows:—


Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Algeria 1 3  37
Egypt 1 2  6
Cape Colony 4 9*  77
Natal 1 2  7
  7 16* 127
* Incomplete.


Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
China 3 10  43
India 3 13  73
Japan 3 24 337
  9 47 453


Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Australia 6 41 282
New Zealand 1  5  50
  7 46 332


Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Austria-Hungary  38 291 2440
Belgium 12 181 1265
Denmark 5 57 348
France 71 598 4098
Germany 99 798 6497
Great Britain 95 462 4222
Italy 47 234 2519
Luxemburg 1 3 22
Netherlands 3 74 473
Norway 5 54 309
Portugal 2 9 64
Rumania 1 3 46
Russia, Finland, Livonia  34 118 1719
Servia 2 2* 26*
Spain 11 60 462
Sweden 9 124 726
Switzerland 14 84 650
Turkey 1    
  450 3152 25,886
* Incomplete.

North America.

Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Canada 7 130 768
United States  126 1347 10,946
Mexico 1 13 46
Cuba 1    
  135 1490 11,760

South America.

Country. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Argentine 4 18 133
Brazil 1  9  35
Chile 1  7  61
Uruguay 1    
  7 34 229


Continent. Schools. Teachers. Pupils.
Africa 7 16 127
Asia 9 47 453
Australia 7 46 332
Europe 450 3152  25,886
North America 135 1490 11,760
South America 7 34 229
  615 4785 38,787

These figures refer only to deaf children who are actually under instruction, not to the whole deaf population.

While it is gratifying to find that so much is being done in the way of educating this class of the community, the number of schools in most parts of the world is still lamentably inadequate. For instance, taking the school age as from seven to sixteen, which is now made compulsory by Act of Parliament in Great Britain, and assuming that 20% of the deaf population are of that age, as they are in England, there should be 40,000 deaf pupils under instruction in India alone, whereas there are but seventy-three. There are 200,000 deaf of all ages in India. And what an enormous total should be in schools in China instead of forty-three! The whole of the rest of Asia, with the exception of Japan, has apparently not a single school. There must be many thousands of thousands of deaf (hundreds of thousands, if not thousands of thousands of whom are of school age) in that continent, unless indeed they are destroyed, which is not impossible. What are we to say of Africa, where only 100 pupils are being taught; of South America, with its paltry 200, and Australia’s 300? To come to Europe itself, Russia should have many times more pupils than her 1700. Even in Great Britain the education of the deaf was not made compulsory till 1893, and there are many still evading the law and growing up uneducated. Mr Payne of Swansea estimated (Institution Report, 1903–1904) from the 1901 census, that there must be approximately 204 deaf of school age in South Wales and Monmouthshire, while only 144 were accounted for in all the schools in that district according to Dr Hitz’s statistics.

Dr Kerr Love (Deaf Mutism, p. 217) gives the following table, which shows the number of deaf people in proportion to the population in the countries named:—

 Switzerland 1 in 408 
 Austria 765 
 Hungary 792 
 Sweden 977 
 Prussia 981 
 Finland 981 
 Canada 1003 
 Norway 1052 
 Germany (exclusive of Prussia)  1074 
 Portugal 1333 
 Ireland 1398*
 India 1459 
 United States 1514 
 Denmark 1538 
 Greece 1548 
 France 1600 
 Italy 1862 
 Scotland 1885*
 Cape Colony 1904 
 England 2043*
 Spain 2178 
 Belgium 2247 
 Australasia 2692 
 Holland 2985 
 Ceylon 4328 
* The figures for England, Scotland and Ireland, according to the
1901 census, are different and have been given above.

According to a tabular statement of British and Colonial schools, June 1899, the proportion of those born deaf to those who lost hearing after birth was, at that time and in those countries, 2126 to 1251, as far as returns had been made. Several schools had, however, failed to give statistics. These figures show a proportion of nearly 59% congenitally deaf persons to over 41% whose deafness is acquired. Professor Fay, whose monumental work, Marriages of the Deaf in America, deserves particular attention, mentions (p. 38) that of 23,931 persons who attended American schools for the deaf up to the year 1890, 9842, or 41%, were reported as congenitally deaf, and 14,089, or 59%, as adventitiously deaf,—figures which exactly reverse those just quoted. The classification of deafness acquired in infancy with congenital deafness by some other authorities (giving rise to the rather absurd term “toto-congenital” to describe the latter) is unscientific. There is reason for the opinion that the non-congenital, even when hearing has been lost in early infancy, acquire language better, and it is a mistake from any point of view to include them in the born deaf.

Other statistics vary very much as to the proportion of born deaf, some being as low as a quarter, and some as high as three-quarters, of the whole class. We can only say, speaking of both sides of the Atlantic, and counterbalancing one period with another, that the general average appears to be about 50% for each. Probably the percentage varies in different places for definite reasons, which we shall now briefly consider.

Causes of Deafness.—These may be considered in two divisions, pre-natal and post-natal.

1. Pre-Natal.—A small percentage of these is due, it seems, to malformation of some portion of the auditory apparatus. Another percentage is known to represent the children of the intermarriage of blood relations. Dr Kerr Love (Deaf Mutism, p. 117) gives statistics from thirteen British institutions which show that on a general average at least 8% of the congenitally deaf are the offspring of such marriages. Besides this, little is known. Beyond all doubt a much larger percentage of deaf children are the offspring of marriages in which one or both partners were born deaf than of ordinary marriages. But inquiries into such phenomena have generally been directed towards tracing deafness and not consanguinity, or at least the inquirer has rarely troubled to make sure whether the grandparents or great-grandparents on either side were relations or not. Such investigations rarely go beyond ascertaining if the parents were related to each other, though we have proof that a certain tendency towards any particular abnormality may not exhibit itself in every generation of the family in question. To give an illustration, suppose that G is a deaf man. Several inquirers may trace back to the preceding generation F, and to the grandparents E, and even to the great-grandparents D, in search of an ancestor who is deaf, and such they may discover in the third generation D. But probably not one of these several inquirers will ask G if any of his grandparents or great-grandparents married a cousin, for instance, though they may ask if his father did. To continue this hypothetical case, the investigators will again trace back along the family tree to generations C, B and A in search of an original deaf ancestor, on whose shoulders they seek to lay the blame of both D’s and G’s deafness. Not finding any such, they will again content themselves with asking if D’s parents (generation C) were blood relations or not, and, receiving an answer in the negative, desist from further inquiry in this direction, assuming that D’s deafness is the original cause of G’s deafness. They do not, we fear, inquire if any grandparents or great-grandparents (hearing people) were related, with the same persistency as they ask if any were deaf. The search for deafness is pushed through several generations, the search for consanguinity is only extended to one generation. Perhaps if it were carried further, it would be discovered that A married his niece, and there lay the secret of the deafness in both D and G. In other words, the deafness in D is not the cause of that in G, but the deafness in both D and G are effects of the consanguineous marriage in A. All this is, however, merely by way of suggestion. We submit that if deafness in one generation may be followed by deafness two or even three generations later, while the tendency to deafness exists, but does not appear, in the intermediate generations, it is only logical to inquire if deafness in the first discoverable instance in a family may not be caused by consanguinity, the effect of which is not seen for two or three generations in a similar manner. Moreover it is probable that consanguinity in parents or grandparents may often be denied. An exhaustive investigation along these lines is desirable, for we believe that congenital deafness would be proved to be due to consanguinity in hearing people, if the search were pushed far enough back and the truth were told, in a far greater percentage of cases than is now suspected. This is not disproved by quoting numbers of cases where no deafness follows consanguinity in any generation, for resulting weakness may be shown (where it exists) in many other ways than by deafness.

This theory receives support from the statistics quoted by Dr Kerr Love (Deaf Mutism, p. 132), where the percentage of defective children resulting from the consanguineous marriages of hearing people increases in almost exact proportion to the nearness of affinity of the parents. It is further borne out by statistics of the duchy of Nassau, and of Berlin, both quoted by Dr Kerr Love (pp. 119, 120). These show 1 deaf person in 1397 Roman Catholics, 1101 Evangelicals and 508 Jews in the former case, and 1 in 3000 Roman Catholics, 2000 Protestants and 400 Jews in the latter. When we are told that “Roman Catholics prohibit marriages between persons who are near blood relations, Protestants view such marriages as permissible, and Jews encourage intermarriage with blood relations,” these figures become suggestive. We find the same greater tendency to deafness in thinly-populated and out-of-the-way districts and countries where, owing to the circle of acquaintances being limited, people are more likely to marry relations.

With regard to the question of marriages of the deaf, Professor Edward Allen Fay’s work is so complete that the results of his six years’ labour are particularly worthy of notice, for, as the introduction states, the book is a “collection of records of marriages of the deaf far larger than all previous collections put together,” and it deals in detail with 4471 such marriages. The summary of statistics is as follows (Marriages of the Deaf in America, p. 134):—

Marriages of the Deaf. Number of Marriages. Number of Children. Percentage.
Total. Resulting in deaf offspring. Total. Deaf. Marriages resulting in deaf offspring. Deaf children.
One or both partners
3078 300 6782 588 9.7 8.6
Both partners deaf 2377 220 5072 429 9.2 8.4
One partner deaf, the
other hearing
599 75 1532 151 12.5 9.8
One or both partners
congenitally deaf
1477 194 3401 413 13.1 12.1
One or both partners
adventitiously deaf
2212 124 4701 199 5.6 4.2
Both partners
congenitally deaf
335 83 779 202 24.7 25.9
One partner congenitally
deaf, the other
adventitiously deaf
814 66 1820 119 8.1 6.5
Both partners
adventitiously deaf
845 30 1720 40 3.5 2.3
One partner congenitally
deaf, the other hearing
191 28 528 63 14.6 11.9
One partner
adventitiously deaf,
the other hearing
310 10 713 16 3.2 2.2
Both partners had deaf
437 103 1060 222 23.5 20.9
One partner had deaf
relatives, the other had
541 36 1210 78 6.6 6.4
Neither partner had deaf
471 11 1044 13 3.2 1.2
Both partners
congenitally deaf; both
had deaf relatives
172 49 429 130 28.4 30.3
Both partners
congenitally deaf; one
had deaf relatives, the
other had not
49 8 105 21 16.3 20.0
Both partners
congenitally deaf;
neither had deaf
14 1 24 1 7.1 4.1
Both partners
adventitiously deaf;
both had deaf relatives
57 10 114 11 17.5 9.6
Both partners
adventitiously deaf;
one had deaf relatives,
the other had not
167 7 357 10 4.1 2.8
Both partners
adventitiously deaf;
neither had deaf
284 2 550 2 0.7 0.3
Partners consanguineous 31 14 100 30 45.1 30.0

One point deserves special attention in the above list. It is that where there are no deaf relatives (i.e. where there has not been a history of deafness in the family) only one child out of twenty-four is deaf, even when the parents were both born deaf themselves. Where there were deaf relatives already in the family on both sides, and the parents were born deaf, the percentage of deaf children is seven and a half times as great. This seems to show that there are causes of congenital deafness which are, comparatively speaking, unlikely to be transmitted to future generations, while other causes of congenital deafness are so liable to be perpetuated that one child in every three is deaf. We conjecture that one original cause of congenital deafness which reappears in a family is consanguinity—for instance, the intermarriage of first or second cousins (hearing people) in some previous generation. Out of the 2245 deaf persons who were born deaf, 269 had parents who were blood relations, according to Fay. And perhaps many more refrained from acknowledging the fact. Eleven had grandparents who were cousins. This theory calls for investigation, and while the marriage of deaf people is not encouraged, it is fair to ask those who so strenuously oppose such unions whether they may not be spending their energies on trying to check an effect instead of a cause, and if that cause may not really be consanguinity,—witness the percentage of deaf people among Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews before noticed. On the principle that prevention is better than cure it is the intermarriage of cousins and other relations which should be discouraged. The marriage of deaf people is inadvisable where there has been deafness in the family in former generations, but the same warning applies to all the other members of that family, for the hearing members are as likely to transmit the defect of which deafness is a symptom as the deaf members are. We are more concerned to discover the primary cause of the defect, and take steps to prevent the latter from occurring at all. Those who have no dissuasions for hearing people, who might perhaps cause the misery, and only give counsel to those among the transmitters of it who happen to be deaf, are acting in a manner which is hardly logical.

2. Post-Natal.—We have collected and grouped the stated causes of deafness in those partners of the marriages in America noticed by Fay. About a hundred and thirty did not mention how they lost hearing. Any errors in this calculation must be less than 1% at most, and can make no material difference. In some cases two or more diseases are given as the cause of deafness. In such cases where one is a very common cause of deafness, and the other is unusual, the former is credited with being the reason for the defect. Where both are common, we have divided the cases between them in a rough proportion.

Scarlet fever 973; scarlatina 3; scarlet rash 2 978
Spotted fever 260; meningitis 92; spinal meningitis 76;
cerebro-spinal meningitis 70; spinal fever 28; spinal
disease 8; congestion of spine 2
Brain fever 309; inflammation of brain 62; congestion of brain
30; disease in brain 3
Typhoid 127; “fever" (unspecified) 117; typhus 17;
intermittent fever 14; bilious fever 11; other fevers 14
Gatherings, inflammations, in head; ulcers, disease, sores,
risings, &c., all but- 22 being explicitly stated to be in
head or ears
“Sickness” 167; “illness" 49; “disease” 8; no definite
specification 12
Measles 191
Colds 101; colds in head, &c. 35; catarrh 19; catarrhal fevers
10; chills, &c. 17
Whooping cough 77; diphtheria 34; lung fever, and various
diseases of lungs and throat 60
Falls 143
Fits and convulsions 58; spasms 18; teething 16 92
Scrofula 35; mumps 25; swellings on neck 2 62
Many various and unusual causes 60
Smallpox 8; chickenpox 64 cholera, &c. 7; canker, &c. 11;
erysipelas 13
Paralysis, &c. 12; nerve diseases 12; fright 8; palsy 3 35
Hydrocephalus 14; dropsy on brain or in head 17; dropsy 2 33
Various accidents, blows, kicks, &c. 31
Quinine 22; other medicines 7 29
Total 3804

We have counted a hundred and thirty of those who were returned as having lost hearing who were also stated to be the offspring of consanguineous marriages.

Dr Kerr Love (Deaf Mutism, p. 150) gives the following list compiled from the registers of British institutions:—

Scarlet fever 331
Miscellaneous causes 175
Teething, convulsions, &c. 171
Meningitis, brain fever, &c. 166
Measles 138
Falls and accidents 122
Enteric and other fevers 119
Disease, illness, &c. 37
Whooping cough 33
Suppurative ear diseases 18
Syphilis 2
Unknown causes 98

The same writer quotes Hartmann’s table, compiled in 1880 from continental statistics, as follows:—

Cerebral affections, inflammations, convulsions 644
Cerebro-spinal meningitis 295
Typhus 260
Scarlatina 205
Measles 84
Ear disease, proper 77
Lesions of the head 70
Other diseases 354

There appears to be no cure for deafness that is other than partial; but with the advance of science preventive treatment is expected to be efficacious in scarlet fever, measles, &c.

Condition of the Deaf.

1. In Childhood.—It is difficult to impress people with two facts in connexion with teaching language to the average child who was born deaf, or lost hearing in early infancy. One is the necessity of the undertaking, and the other is that this necessity is not due to mental deficiency in the pupil. To the born deaf-mute in an English-speaking country English is a foreign language. His inability to speak is due to his never having heard that tongue which his mother uses. The same reason holds good for his entire ignorance of that language. The hearing child does not know a word of English when he is born, and never would learn it if taken away from where it is spoken. He learns English unconsciously by imitating what he hears. The deaf child never hears English, and so he never learns it till he goes to school. Here he has to start learning English—or whatever is the language of his native land—in the same way as a hearing boy learns a foreign language.

But another reason exists which renders his task much more difficult than that of a normal English schoolboy learning, say, German. The latter has two channels of information, the eye and the ear; the deaf boy has only one, the eye. The hearing boy learns German by what he hears of it in class as well as by reading it; the deaf boy can only learn by what he sees. It is as if you tried to fill two cisterns of the same capacity with two inlets to one and only one inlet to the other; supposing the inlets to be the same size, the former will fill twice as fast. So it is in the case of the hearing boy as compared with his deaf brother. The cerebral capacity and quality are the same, but in one case one of the avenues to the brain is closed, and consequently the development is less rapid. Moreover, the thoughts are precisely those which would be expected in people who form them only from what they see. We were often asked by our deaf playmates in our childhood such questions (in signs) as “What does the cat say?”—“The dog talks, does he not?”—“Is the rainbow very hot on the roof of that house?” They have often told us such things as that they used to think someone went to the end of the earth and climbed up the sky to light the stars, and to pour down rain through a sieve.

But there is yet a third disadvantage for the already handicapped deaf boy. He has no other language to build upon, while the other has his mother tongue with which to compare the foreign language he is learning. The latter already has a general idea of sentences and clauses, of tense and mood, of gender, number and case, of substantives, verbs and prepositions; and he knows that one language must form some sort of parallel to another. He is already prepared to find a subject, predicate and object, in the sentence of a foreign language, even when he knows not a word of any but his own mother tongue. If he is told that a certain word in German is an adjective, he understands what its function is, even when he has yet to learn the meaning of the word. All this goes for nothing in the case of the deaf pupil. The very elementary fact that certain words denote certain objects—that there is such a class of word as substantives—comes as a revelation to most deaf children. They have to begin at seven laboriously and artificially to learn what an ordinary baby has unconsciously and naturally discovered at the age of two. English, spoken, written, printed or finger-spelled, is no more natural, comprehensible or easy of acquirement to the deaf than is Chinese. The manual alphabet is simply one way of expressing the vernacular on the fingers; it is no more the deaf-mute’s “natural” language than speech or writing, and if he cannot express himself by the latter modes of communicating, he cannot by spelling on the fingers. The last is simply a case of vicaria linguae manus. None of these are languages in themselves; whether you use pen or type, hand or voice, you are but adopting one or other method of expressing one and the same tongue—English or whatever it may be, that of a “people of a strange speech and of a hard language, whose words they cannot understand.” The deaf child’s natural mode of communication—more natural to him than any verbal language is to hearing people—is the world-wide, natural language of signs.

2. Natural Language of the Deaf.—We have just called signs a natural language. While a purist might properly object to this adjective being applied to all signs, yet it is not an unfair term to use as regards this method of conversing as a whole, even in the United States, where signs, being to a great extent the French signs invented by de l’Epée, are more artificial than in England. The old story, by the way, of the pupil of de l’Epée failing to write more than “hand, breast,” as describing what an incredulous investigator did when he laid his hand on his breast, proves nothing. In all probability he had no idea that he was expected to describe an action, and thought that he was being asked the names of certain parts of the body. The hand was held out to him and he wrote “hand.” Then the breast was indicated by placing the hand on it, and he wrote “breast.” Moreover, the artificial element is much less pronounced than is supposed by most of those who are loudest in their condemnation of signs, there being almost invariably an obvious connexion between the sign and idea. These critics are generally people whose acquaintance with the subject is rather limited, and the thermometer of whose zeal in waging war against gestures generally falls in proportion as the photometer of their knowledge about them shows an increasing light. We may go still further and point out that to object to any sign on the ground of artificiality per se, is to strain at the gnat and to swallow the camel, for English itself is one of the most artificial languages in existence, and certainly is more open to such an objection than signs. If we apply the same test to English that is applied to signs by those who would rule out any which they suppose cannot come under the head of natural gesture or pantomime, what fraction of our so-called natural language should we have left? For a spoken word to be “natural” in this sense it must be onomatopoetic, and what infinitesimal percentage of English words are such? A foreigner, unacquainted with the language, could not glean the drift of a conversation in English, except perhaps a trifle from the tone of the voices and more from the natural signs used—the smiles and frowns, the expressions of the faces, the play of eyes, lips, hands and whole body. The only words he could possibly understand without such aids are some such onomatopoetic words as the cries of animals—“mew,” “chirrup,” &c., and a few more like “bang” or “swish.”

The reason why we insist emphatically upon the importance of teaching English in schools for the deaf in English-speaking countries, is, firstly, because that is the language which the pupil will be called upon to use in his intercourse with his fellow-men after he leaves school, and secondly, because, if his grasp of that tongue only be sufficient and his interest in books be properly aroused, he can go on educating himself in after-life by means of reading. Time tables are overcrowded with kindergarten, clay modelling, wood-carving, carpentry, and other things which are excellent in themselves. But there is not time for everything, and these are not as important in the case of the deaf pupil as language. Putting aside the question of religion and moral training, we consider the flooding of their minds with general knowledge, and the teaching of English to enable them to express their thoughts to their neighbours, to be of paramount importance, so paramount that all other branches of education in their turn pale into insignificance by comparison with these, while the question of methods of instruction should be subservient to these main ends. Too many make speech in itself an end. This is a mistake. Speech is not in itself English; it is only one way of expressing that language. And we are little concerned to inquire by what means the deaf pupil expresses himself in English so long as he does so express himself, whether by speech or writing or finger-spelling—for if he can finger-spell he can write. It is not the mere fact that he can make certain sounds or write certain letters or form the alphabet on his hands that should signify. It is the actual language that he uses, whatever be the means, and the thoughts that are enshrined in the language, that should be our criterion when judging of his education.

The importance of English is insisted upon because to place the deaf child in touch with his English-speaking fellow-men we must teach him their language, and also because he can thereby educate himself by means of books if, and when, he has a sufficient command of that language. The reason is not because the vernacular is actually superior to signs as a means of conversation. The sign language is quite equal to the vernacular as a means of expression. The former is as much our mother tongue, if we may say so, as the latter; we used one language as soon as the other, in our earliest infancy; and, after a lifelong experience of both, we affirm that signs are a more beautiful language than English, and provide possibilities of a wealth of expression which English does not possess, and which probably no other language possesses.

That others whose knowledge of signs is lifelong hold similar opinions is shown by the following extract from The Deaf and their Possibilities, by Dr Gallaudet:—

“Thinking that the question may arise in the minds of some, ‘Does the sign language give the deaf, when used in public addresses, all that speech affords to the hearing?’ I will say that my experience and observation lead me to answer with a decided affirmative. On occasions almost without number it has been my privilege to interpret, through signs to the deaf, addresses given in speech; I have addressed hundreds of assemblages of deaf persons in the college, in schools I have visited, and elsewhere, using signs for the original expression of thought; I have seen many more lectures and public debates given originally in signs; I have seen conventions of deaf-mutes in which no word was spoken, and yet all the forms of parliamentary proceedings were observed, and the most earnest, and even excited, discussions were carried on. I have seen the ordinances of religion administered, and the full service of the Church rendered in signs; and all this with the assurance growing out of my complete understanding of the language—a knowledge which dates from my earliest childhood—that for all the purposes enumerated gestural expression is in no respect inferior, and is in many respects superior, to oral, verbal utterance as a means of communicating ideas.”

The following is an analysis of the sign language given by Mr Payne of the Swansea Institution, together with his explanatory notes:—

Analysis of the Sign Language.
I. Facial expression.
II. Gesture 1. Sympathetic
especially in
shortened form.
2. Representative (= Natural signs)
3. Systematic (a) Arbitrary signs
(b) Grammatical signs
III. Mimic action.
IV. Pantomime.

Observations.—People speak of ‘manual signs.’ Of course there are signs which are made with the hands only, as there are others which are labial, &c. But the sign language is comprehensive, and at times the whole frame is engaged in its use. A late American teacher could and did ‘sign’ a story to his pupils with his hands behind him. Facial expression plays an important part in the language. Sympathetic gestures are individualistic and spontaneous, and are sometimes unconsciously made. The speaker, feeling that words are inadequate, reinforces them with gesture. Arbitrary signs are, e.g., drumming with three separated fingers on the chin for ‘uncle.’ Grammatical signs are those which are used for inflections, parts of speech, or letters as in the manual alphabet, and some numerical signs, though other numerals may be classed as natural; also signs for sounds, and even labial signs. Signs, whether natural or arbitrary, which gain acceptance, especially if they are shortened, are ‘conventional.’ ‘Mimic action’ refers, e.g., to the sign for sawing, the side of one hand being passed to and fro over the side or back of the other.’Pantomime’ means, e.g., when the signer pretends to hang up his hat and coat, roll up his sleeves, kneel on his board, guide the saw with his thumb, saw through, wipe his forehead, &c.”

Illustrations of one style of numerical signs are given below.

EB1911 Deaf and Dumb - Fig. 1 - Hand signs.jpg
Fig. 1.

Units are signified with the palm turned inwards; tens with the palm turned outwards; hundreds with the fingers downwards; thousands with the left hand to the right shoulder; millions with the hand near the forehead. For 12, sign 10 outwards and 2 inwards, and so on up to 19. 21 = 2 outwards, 1 inwards, and so on up to 30. 146 = 1 downwards, 4 outwards, 6 inwards. 207,837 = 2 downwards, 7 inwards (both at shoulder), 8 downwards, 3 outwards, 7 inwards. 599,126,345 = 5 downwards, 9 outwards, 9 inwards (all near forehead); 1 downwards, 2 outwards, 6 inwards (all at shoulder); 3 downwards, 4 outwards, 5 inwards (in front of chest).

Only the third, and a few of the second, subdivision of the second section of the above classes of signs can be excluded when talking of signs as being the deaf-mute’s natural language. In fact we hesitate to call representative gesture—e.g. the horns and action of milking for “cow,” the smelling at something grasped in the hand for “flower,” &c.—conventional at all, except when shortened as the usual sign for “cat” is, for instance, from the sign for whiskers plus stroking the fur on back and tail plus the action of a cat licking its paw and washing its face, to the sign for whiskers only.

The deaf child expresses himself in the sign language of his own accord. The supposition that in manual or combined schools generally they “teach them signs” is incorrect, except that perhaps occasionally a few pupils may be drilled and their signs polished for a dramatic rendering of a poem at a prize distribution or public meeting, which is no more “teaching them signs” than training hearing children to recite the same poem orally and polishing their rendering of it is teaching them English. If the deaf boy meets with some one who will use gesture to him, a new sign will be invented as occasion requires by one or other to express a new idea, and if it be a good one is tacitly adopted to express that idea, and so an entire language is built up. It follows that in different localities signs will differ to a great extent, but one who is accustomed to signing can readily see the connexion and understand what is meant even when the signs are partly novel to him. We are sometimes asked if we can make a deaf child understand abstract ideas by this language. Our answer is that we can, if a hearing child of no greater age and intelligence can understand the same ideas in English. Signs are particularly the best means of conveying religious truths to the deaf. If you wish to appeal to him, to impress him, to reach his heart and his sympathies (and, incidentally, to offer the best possible substitute for music), use his own eloquent language of signs. We have conversed by signs with deaf people from all parts of the British Isles, from France, Norway and Sweden, Poland, Finland, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the United States, and found that they are indeed a world-wide means of communication, even when we wandered on to most unusual and abstract subjects. Deaf people in America converse with Red Indians with ease thereby, which shows how natural the generality of even de l’Epée signs are. The sign language is everybody’s natural language, not only the deaf-mute’s.

Addison (Deaf Mutism, p. 283) quotes John Bulwer as follows:—“What though you (the deaf and dumb) cannot express your minds in those verbal contrivances of man’s invention: yet you want not speech who have your whole body for a tongue, having a language which is more natural and significant, which is common to you with us, to wit, gesture, the general and universal language of human nature.” The same writer says further on (p. 297): “The same process of growth goes on alike with the signs of the deaf and dumb as with the spoken words of the hearing. Arnold, than whom no stronger advocate of the oral method exists, recognizes this in his comment on this principle of the German school, for he writes: ‘It is much to be regretted that teachers should indulge in unqualified assertions of the impossibility of deaf-mutes attaining to clear conceptions and abstract thinking by signs or mimic gestures. Facts are against them.’ Again, Graham Bell, who is generally considered an opponent of the sign system, says: ‘I think that if we have the mental condition of the child alone in view without reference to language, no language will reach the mind like the language of signs; it is the method of reaching the mind of the deaf child.’”

The opinions of the deaf themselves, from all parts of the world, are practically unanimous on this question. In the words of Dr Smith, president of the World’s Congress of the Deaf held at St Louis, Missouri, in 1904, under the auspices of the National Association of the Deaf, U.S.A., “the educated deaf have a right to be heard in these matters, and they must and shall be heard.” A portion may be quoted of the resolutions passed at that congress of 570 of the best-informed deaf the world has ever seen, at least scores, if not hundreds, of them holding degrees, and being as well educated as the vast majority of teachers of the deaf in England: “Resolved, that the oral method, which withholds from the congenitally and quasi-congenitally deaf the use of the language of signs outside the schoolroom, robs the children of their birthright; that those champions of the oral method, who have been carrying on a warfare, both overt and covert, against the use of the language of signs by the adult deaf, are not friends of the deaf; and that, in our opinion, it is the duty of every teacher of the deaf, no matter what method he or she uses, to have a working command of the sign language.”

It is often urged as an objection to the use of signs that those who use them think in them, and that their English (or other vernacular language) suffers in consequence. There is, however, no more objection to thinking in signs than to thinking in any other language, and as to the second objection, facts are against such a statement. The best-educated deaf in the world, as a class, are in America, and the American deaf sign almost to a man. It is true that at first a beginner in school may, when at a loss how to express himself in words, render his thoughts in sign-English, if we may use the expression, just as a schoolboy will sometimes put Latin words in the English order. That is, the deaf pupil puts the word in the natural order of the signs, which is really the logical order, and is much nearer the Latin sequence of words than the English. But, firstly, if he had always been forbidden to use signs he would not express himself in English any better in that particular instance; he would simply not attempt to express himself at all,—so he loses nothing, at least; and secondly, it is perfectly easy to teach him in a very short time that each language has its own idiom and that the thought is expressed in a different order in each.

Of the deaf child’s moral condition nothing more need be said than that it is at first exactly that of his hearing brother, and his development therein depends entirely upon whether he is trained to the same degree. The need of this is great. He is quite as capable of religious and moral instruction, and benefits as much by what he receives of it. Happiness is a noticeable feature of the character of the deaf when they are allowed to mix with each other. The charge of bad temper can usually be sustained only when the fault is on the side of those with whom they live. For instance, the latter often talk in the presence of the deaf person without saying a word to him, and if he then shows irritation, which is not often in any case, it is no more to be wondered at than if a hearing person resents whispering or other secret communication in his presence.

3. Social Status, &c.—From the 1901 census “Summary Tables” we gather the following facts concerning the occupations of the deaf, aged ten and upwards, in England and Wales. About half of the total number, taking males and females together (13,450), are engaged in occupations—6665. The rest—6785—are retired or unoccupied. Of the former, the following table given below shows the distribution:—

In general or local government work (clerks, messengers, &c.) 11
In professional occupations and subordinate services 87
In domestic offices or services 788
In commercial occupations 12
In work connected with conveyance of men, goods or messages 144
In agriculture 568
In fishing 3
In and about mines and quarries, &c. 151
In work connected with metals, machines, implements, &c. 503
In work connected with precious metals, jewels, games, &c. 46
In building and works of construction 485
In work connected with wood, furniture, fittings and decorations 470
In work connected with brick, cement, pottery and glass 153
In work connected with chemicals, oil, soap, &c. 46
In work connected with skins, hair and feathers 137
In work connected with paper, prints, books, &c. 238
In work connected with textile fabrics 407
In work connected with dress 1829
In work connected with food, tobacco, drink and lodging 194
In work connected with gas, water and electric supply, and sanitary service  22
Other general and undefined workers and dealers 371
Total  6665

Among those in professional occupations are a clergyman, five law clerks, ten schoolmasters, teachers, &c., thirty-seven painters, engravers and sculptors, and seven photographers. Of those not engaged in occupations, 235 have retired from business, and 245 are living on their own means. Probably a very large number of the remainder were out of work or engaged in odd jobs at the time of the census; it would certainly be incorrect to take the words “Without specified occupations or unoccupied” to mean that those classified as such were permanently unable to support themselves.

The commonest occupations of men are bootmaking (555), tailoring (429), farm-labouring (287), general labouring (257), carpentry (195), cabinet-making (142), painting, decorating and glazing (95), French-polishing (88), harness-making, &c. (80).

The commonest occupations of women are dressmaking (484), domestic service (367), laundry and washing service (230), tailoring (170), shirtmaking, &c. (81), charing (79).

In Munich there are about sixty deaf artists, especially painters and sculptors. In Germany and Austria generally, deaf lithographers, xylographers and photographers are well employed, as are bookbinders in Leipzig in particular, and labourers in the provinces.

In France there are several deaf writers, journalists, &c., two principals of schools, an architect, a score or so of painters, several of whom are ladies, nine sculptors, and a few engravers, photographers, proof-readers, &c.

Italy boasts deaf wood-carvers, sculptors, painters, and architects graduating from the universities and academies of fine arts with prizes and medals; also type-setters, pressmen, carvers of coral, ivory and precious stones.

Two gentlemen in the office of the Norwegian government are deaf, as are four in the engraving department of the land survey; one is a master-lithographer, another a master-printer, a third a civil engineer, and the rest are engaged in the usual trades, as are those in Sweden.

The deaf form societies of their own to guard their interests, for social intercourse and other purposes. In England there is the British Deaf and Dumb Association; in America the National Association of the Deaf and many lesser societies; Germany has no fewer than 150 such associations, some of which are athletic clubs, benefit societies, dramatic clubs, and so forth. The central Federation is the largest German association. France has the National Union of Deaf-Mutes and others, many being benefit clubs. Italy has some societies; Sweden has eight.

In the United States there are no fewer than fifty-three publications devoted to the interests of the deaf, most of them being school magazines published in the institutions themselves. Great Britain and Ireland have six, four of them being school magazines. France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary have several, and Finland, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Austria are represented. Canada has three.

There are many Church and other missions to the deaf in England and abroad, which are much needed owing to the difficulty the average deaf person has in understanding the archaic language of both Bible and Prayer-book. Until they have this explained to them it is useless to place these books in their hands, and even where they are well-educated and can follow the services, they fail to get the sermon. Chaplains and missioners engage in all branches of pastoral work among them, and also try to find them employment, interpret for them where necessary, and interview people on their behalf.

The difficulty of obtaining employment for the deaf has been increased in Great Britain by the Employers’ Liability and Workmen’s Compensation Acts, for masters are afraid—needlessly, as facts show—to employ them, under the impression that they are more liable to accidents owing to their affliction.

The new After-Care Committees of the London County Council are a late confession of a need which other bodies have long endeavoured to supply. Education should be a development of the whole nature of the child. The board of education in England provides for intellectual, industrial and physical training, but does not take cognizance of those parts of education which are far more important—the social, moral and spiritual. Some teachers, both oral and manual, do an incalculable amount of good at the cost of great self-sacrifice and in face of much discouragement. They deserve the highest praise for so doing, and such work needs to be carried on after their pupils leave school.


History.[2]—“Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I the Lord?” (Ex. iv. 11). Such is the first known reference to the deaf. But the significance of this statement was not realized by the ancients, who mercilessly destroyed all the defective, the deaf among the rest. Greek and Roman custom demanded their death, and they were thrown into the river, or otherwise killed, without causing any comment but that so many encumbrances had been removed. They were regarded as being on a mental level with idiots and utterly incapable of helping themselves. In later times Roman law forbade those who were deaf and dumb from birth to make a will or bequest, placing them under the care of guardians who were responsible for them to the state; though if a deaf person had lost hearing after having been educated, and could either speak or write, he retained his rights. Herodotus refers to a deaf son of Croesus, whom he declares to have suddenly recovered his speech upon seeing his father about to be killed. Gellius makes a similar statement with reference to a certain athlete. Hippocrates was in advance of Aristotle when he realized that deaf-mutes did not speak simply because they did not know how to; for the last-named seems to have considered that some defect of the intellect was the cause of their inability to utter articulate sounds. Pliny the elder and Messalla Corvinus mention deaf-mutes who could paint.

The true mental condition of the deaf was realized, however, by few, if any, before the time of Christ. He, as He opened the ears of the deaf man and loosened his tongue, talked to him in his own language, the language of signs.

St Augustine erred amazingly when he declared that the deaf could have no faith, since “faith comes by hearing only.” The Talmud, on the other hand, recognized that they could be taught, and were therefore not idiotic.

It is, however, with those who attempted to educate the deaf that we are here chiefly concerned. The first to call for notice is St John of Beverley. The Venerable Bede tells how this bishop made a mute speak and was credited with having performed a miracle in so doing. Probably it was nothing more than the first attempt to teach by the oral method, and the greatest credit is due to him for being so far in advance of his times as to try to instruct his pupil at all. Bede himself invented a system of counting on the hands; and also a “manual speech,” as he called it,—using his numerals to indicate the number of the letter of the alphabet; thus, the sign for “seven” would also signify the letter “g,” and so forth. But we do not know that he intended this alphabet for the use of the deaf.

It is not until the 16th century that we hear much of anybody else who was interested in the deaf, but at this date we find Girolamo Cardan stating that they can be instructed by writing, after they have been shown the signification of words, since their mental power is unaffected by their inability to hear.

Pedro Ponce de Leon (c. 1520–1584), a Spanish Benedictine monk, is more worthy of notice, as he, to use his own words, taught the deaf “to speak, read, write, reckon, pray, serve at the altar, know Christian doctrine, and confess with a loud voice.” Some he taught languages and science. That he was successful was proved by other witness than his own, for Panduro, Valles and de Morales all give details of his work, the last-named giving an account by one of Ponce’s pupils of his education. De Morales says further that Ponce de Leon addressed his scholars either by signs or writing, and that the reply came by speech. It appears that this master committed his methods to writing. Though this work is lost it is probable that his system was put into practice by Juan Pablo Bonet. This Spaniard successfully instructed a brother of his master the constable of Castile, who had lost hearing at the age of two. His method corresponded in a great measure to that which is now called the combined system, for, in the work which he wrote, he shows how the deaf can be taught to speak by reducing the letters to their phonetic value, and also urges that finger-spelling and writing should be used. The connexion between all three, he goes on to say, should be shown the pupils, but the manual alphabet should be mastered first. Nouns he taught by pointing to the objects they represented; verbs he expressed by pantomime; while the value of prepositions, adverbs and interjections, as well as the tenses of verbs, he believed could be learnt by repeated use. The pupil should be educated by interrogation, conversation, and carefully graduated reading. The success of Bonet’s endeavours are borne witness to by Sir Kenelm Digby, who met the teacher at Madrid.

Bonifacio’s work on signs, in which he uses every part of the body for conversational purposes, may be mentioned before passing to John Bulwer, the first Englishman to treat of teaching the deaf. In his three works, Philocophus, Chirologia and Chironomia, he enlarges upon Sir Kenelm Digby’s account, and argues about the possibility of teaching the deaf by speech. But he seems to have had no practical experience of the art.

Dr John Wallis is more important, though it has been disputed whether he was not indebted to his predecessors for some ideas. He taught by writing and articulation. He took the trouble to classify to a certain extent the various sounds, dividing both vowels and “open” consonants into gutturals, palatals and labials. The “closed” consonants he subdivided into mutes, semi-mutes and semi-vowels. Language, Wallis maintained, should be taught when the pupil had first learned to write, and the written characters should be associated with some sort of manual alphabet. Names of things should be given first, and then the parts of those things, e.g. “body” first, and then, under that, “head,” “arm,” “foot,” &c. Then the singular and plural should be given, then possessives and possessive pronouns, followed by particles, other pronouns and adjectives. These should be followed by the copulative verb; after which should come the intransitive verb and its nominative in the different tenses, and the transitive with its object in the same way. Lastly, prepositions and conjunctions should be taught. All this, Wallis held, ought to be done by writing as well as signing, for he did not lose sight of the fact that “we must learn the pupil’s language in order to teach him ours.”

Dr William Holder, who read an essay before the Royal Society in 1668–1669 on the “Elements of Speech,” added an appendix concerning the deaf and dumb. He describes the organs of speech and their positions in articulation, suggesting teaching the pupil the sounds in order of simplicity, though he held that he must learn to write first. Afterwards the pupil must associate the letters with a manual alphabet. Holder notices that dumbness is due to the want of hearing, and therefore speech can be acquired through watching the lips, though he admits the task is a laborious one. He also urges the teacher to be patient and to make the work as interesting to the pupil as possible. Command of language, he maintains, will enable the deaf person to read a sentence from the lips if he gets most of the words; for he will be able to supply those he did not see, from his knowledge of English.

Johan Baptist van Helmont treated of the work of the vocal organs. Amman says that Van Helmont had discovered a manual alphabet and used it to instruct the deaf, but had not attained very good results.

George Sibscota published a work in 1670 called the Deaf and Dumb Man’s Discourse, in which he contradicts Aristotle’s opinion that people are dumb because of defects in the vocal organs; for they are, he believed, dumb because never taught to speak. They can gain knowledge by sight, he maintained; can write, converse by signs, speak and lip-read. Ramirez de Carrion also taught the deaf to speak and write, as did P. Lana Terzi.

About George Dalgarno more is known. He wrote, in 1680, his Didascalocophus, or Deaf-Mute’s Preceptor, in which he makes the mistake of saying that the deaf have the advantage over the blind in opportunities for learning language. The deaf can, in his opinion, be taught to speak, and also to read the lips if the letters are very distinct. They ought to read, write and spell on the fingers constantly, but use no signs. Substantives are to be taught by associating them with the things they represent; then adjectives should be joined to them. Verbs should be taught by suiting the action to the words, and associating the pronouns with them. Other parts of speech should be given as opportunities of explaining them present themselves. Dalgarno invented an alphabet, the letters being on the joints of the fingers and palm of the left hand.

John Conrad Amman published his Dissertatio de Loquela in 1700. In the first chapter he treats, among other things, of the nature of the breath and voice and the organs of speech. In the second chapter he classifies sounds into vowels, semi-vowels and consonants, and a detailed description of each sound is given. The third chapter is devoted to showing how to produce and control the voice, to utter each sound from writing or from the lips, and to combine them into syllables and words. It was only after the pupil had attained to considerable success in articulation and lip-reading that Amman taught the meaning of words and language; but the name of this teacher will long stand as that of one of the most successful the world has known.

Passing over Camerarius, Schott, Kerger (who began teaching language sooner than Amman did, and depended more on writing and signs), Raphel (who instructed three deaf daughters), Lasius, Arnoldi, Lucas, Vanin, de Fay (himself deaf) and many others, we come to Giacobbo Rodriguez Pereira, the pioneer of deaf-mute education in France, if we except de Fay. Beginning his experience by instructing his deaf sister, he soon attained to considerable success with two other pupils; his chief aim being, as he said, to make them comprehend the meaning of, and express their thoughts in, language. A commission of the French Academy of Sciences, before whom he appeared, testified to the genuineness of his achievements, noticing that he wrote and signed to his pupils, and stating that he hoped to proceed to the instruction of lip-reading. Pereira soon after came under the notice of the duc de Chaulnes, whose deaf godson, Saboureaux de Fontenay, became his pupil; and in five years this boy was well able to speak and read the lips. Pereira had several other pupils. Probably kindness and affection were two of the secrets of his success, for the love his scholars showed for him was unbounded. His method is only partly known, but he used a manual alphabet which indicated the pronunciation of the letters and some combinations. He used reading and writing; but signs were only called to his aid when absolutely necessary. Language he taught by founding it on action where possible, abstract ideas being gradually developed in later stages of the education.

We now come to the abbé de l’Epée (q.v.). The all-important features in this teacher’s character and method were his intense devotion to his scholars and their class, and the fact that he lived among them and talked to them as one of themselves. Meeting with two girls who were deaf, he started upon the task of instructing them, and soon had a school of sixty pupils, supported entirely by himself. He spared himself no expense and no trouble in doing his utmost to benefit the deaf, learning Spanish for the sole purpose of reading Bonet’s work, and making this book and Amman’s Dissertatio de Loquela his guiding lights. But de l’Epée was the first to attach great importance to signs; and he used them, along with writing, until the pupil had some knowledge of language before he passed on to articulation and lip-reading. To the latter method, however, he never paid as much attention as he did to instructing by signs and writing, and finally he abandoned it altogether through lack of time and means. He laboured long on a dictionary of signs, but never completed it. He was attacked by Pereira, who condemned his method as being detrimental, and this was the beginning of the disputes as to the merits of the different methods which have lasted to the present day; but whatever opinions we may hold as to the best means of instructing the deaf we cannot but admire the devoted teacher who spent his life and his all in benefiting this class of the community.

Samuel Heinicke first began his work in 1754 at Dresden, but in 1778 he removed to Leipzig and started on the instruction of nine pupils. His methods he kept secret; but we know that he taught orally, using signs only when he considered them helpful, and spelling only to combine ideas. He wrote two books and several articles on the subject of educating the deaf, but it is from Walther and Fornari that we learn most about his system. At first Heinicke laid stress on written language, starting with the concrete and going on to the abstract; and he only passed to oral instruction when the pupils could express themselves in fairly correct language. Subsequently, however, he expressed the opinion that speech should be the sole method of instruction, and, strange to say, that by speech alone could thoughts be fully expressed.

Henry Baker became tutor to a deaf girl in 1720, and his success led to the establishment of a private school in London. He also kept his system a secret, but recently his work on lessons for the deaf was discovered, from which we gather that he adopted writing, drawing, speech and lip-reading as his course of instruction. The point to notice is that after the primary stages Baker turned events of every-day life to use in his teaching. His pupils went about with him, and he taught by conversation upon what they saw in the streets,—an excellent method; but it is a pity that such a good teacher had not the philanthropy to make his methods known and to give the poorer deaf the benefit of them, as de l’Epée did.

A school was established in Edinburgh in 1760 by Thomas Braidwood, who taught by the oral method. He taught the sounds first, then syllables, and finally words, teaching their meaning. In 1783 Braidwood came to Hackney, whence he moved to Old Kent Road, and in 1809 there were seventy pupils in what was lately the Old Kent Road Institution. Braidwood’s method was practically a development of Wallis’s. We must regard him as the founder of the first public school for the deaf in England.

It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that a brighter day dawned on the deaf as a class. With the sole exception of de l’Epée no teacher had yet undertaken the instruction of a deaf child who could not pay for it. Now things began to be different. Institutions were founded, and their doors were opened to nearly all.

Dr Watson, the first principal of the Old Kent Road “Asylum,” taught by articulation and lip-reading, reading and writing, explaining by signs to some extent, but using pictures much more, according to Addison, and composing a book of these for the use of his pupils. From Addison (Deaf Mutism, pp. 248 ff.) we learn what developments followed. In Vienna, Prague and Berlin, schools had been founded in rapid succession before the 19th century dawned, and in 1810 the Edinburgh institution opened its doors. Nine years later the Glasgow school was established and, under the able guidance of Mr Duncan Anderson (after several other headmasters had been tried) from 1831, taught pupils whose grasp of English was equal to that of the very best educated deaf in England to-day, as has been proved by conversation with the survivors. Mr Anderson’s great aim was to teach his pupils language, and we might look almost in vain for a teacher in England to succeed as well with a whole class in the beginning of the 20th century as he did in the middle of the 19th. He wrote a dictionary, used pictures and signs to explain English, and apparently paid little or no attention to most of the numerous subjects attempted to-day in schools for the deaf, which, while excellent in themselves, generally exclude what is far more important from the curriculum.

Addison further mentions Mr Baker of Doncaster, a contemporary of Anderson, as having compiled many lesson books for deaf children which came to be used in ordinary schools also, and Mr Scott of Exeter as having, together with Baker, “exercised a profound influence on the course of deaf-mute education in this country.” “Written language,” explained by signs where necessary, was the watchword of these teachers.

Moritz Hill is credited with being principally responsible for having evolved the German, or “pure,” oral method out of the experimental stage to that at which it has arrived at the present day. Arnold of Riehen is also honourably mentioned.

The great “oral revival” now swept all before it. The German method was enthusiastically welcomed in all parts of Europe, and at the Milan conference in 1880 was almost unanimously adopted by teachers from all countries. Those in high places countenanced it; educational authorities awoke to the fact that the deaf needed special teaching, and came to the conclusion that the “pure” oral method was the panacea that would restore all the deaf to a complete equality with the hearing in any conversation upon any subject that might be broached; many governments suddenly took the deaf under the shelter of their own ample wings, and the “bottomless pocket of the ratepayer,” instead of the purse of the charitable, became in many cases the fount of supply for what has been a costly and by no means entirely satisfactory experiment in the history of their education. The “pure” oral method has had a long and unique trial in England in circumstances which other methods have never enjoyed.

Meanwhile in the United States Dr Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was elected in 1815 to go to Europe to inquire into the methods of educating the deaf in vogue there. This was at a meeting held in the house of a physician named Cogswell, in Hartford, Connecticut, and was the result of the latter’s discovery that eighty-four persons in the state besides his own little girl were deaf. Henry Winter Syle, himself deaf, tells how “four months were spent in learning that the doors of the British schools were ‘barred with gold, and opened but to golden keys,’” and how, disappointed in England, Gallaudet met with a ready response to his inquiries in Paris. With Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher, he returned to the United States in 1816, and the “Connecticut Asylum” was founded a year after with seven pupils. The name was changed to “The American Asylum” later, when it was enlarged. This was followed by the Pennsylvania, New York and Kentucky institutions, with the second of which the Peet family were connected. Dr Gallaudet married one of his deaf pupils, Sophia Fowler, and, after a very happy married life, Mrs Gallaudet accompanied her youngest son, Edward Miner Gallaudet, to the Columbia institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Washington, D.C., founded in 1857 by Congress and largely supported by Amos Kendall, and to the National Deaf Mute College, which was founded in 1864, was renamed the Gallaudet College, in honour of Dr T. H. Gallaudet, in 1893, and with the Kendall School (secondary), now forms the Columbia Institution. This college is supported by Congress.

The following account of the work done at the National Deaf-Mute College at Washington is worth attention, as the results are unique, and are often strangely ignored.

Here is a statement of the course for the B.A. degree:—

First year: Algebra, grammar, punctuation, history of England, composition, Latin grammar, Caesar.

Second year: Algebra (from quadratics), geometry, composition, Caesar (Gallic War), Cicero (Orations), Allen and Greenough’s Latin Grammar, Myer’s General History, Goodwin’s Greek Grammar (optional), Xenophon’s Anabasis (optional).

Third year: Olney’s or Loomis’s Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, Loomis’s Analytical Geometry (optional), Orton’s Zoology, Gray’s Botany, Remsen’s Chemistry, laboratory practice, Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad (optional), Meiklejohn’s History of English Literature and Language (two books), Maertz’s English Literature, Hadley’s History, original composition.

Fourth year: Loomis’s Calculus (optional), Dana’s Mechanics, Gage’s Natural Philosophy, Young’s Astronomy, laboratory practice, qualitative analysis, Steel’s Hygienic Physiology, Edgren’s French Grammar, Super’s French Reader, Demosthenes on the Crown (optional), Hart’s Composition and Rhetoric, original composition, Hill’s-Jevon’s Elementary Logic.

Fifth year: Arnold’s Manual of English Literature, Maertz’s English Literature, original composition, Guizot’s History of Civilization, Sheldon’s German Grammar, Joynes’s German Reader, LeConte’s Geology, Guyot’s Earth and Man, Hill’s Elements of Psychology, Haven’s Moral Philosophy, Butler’s Analogy, Bascom’s Elements of Beauty, Perry’s Political Economy, Gallaudet’s International Law.

Even in 1893 we were told that of the graduates of the college “fifty-seven have been engaged in teaching, four have entered the ministry; three have become editors and publishers of newspapers; three others have taken positions connected with journalism; fifteen have entered the civil service of the government,—one of these, who had risen rapidly to a high and responsible position, resigned to enter upon the practice of law in patent cases, in Cincinnati and Chicago, and has been admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of the United States; one is the official botanist of a state, who has correspondents in several countries of Europe who have repeatedly purchased his collections, and he has written papers upon seed tests and related subjects which have been published and circulated by the agricultural department; one, while filling a position as instructor in a western institution, has rendered important service to the coast survey as a microscopist, and one is engaged as an engraver in the chief office of the survey; of three who became draughtsmen in architects’ offices, one is in successful practice as an architect on his own account, which is also true of another, who completed his preparation by a course of study in Europe; one has been repeatedly elected recorder of deeds in a southern city, and two others are recorders’ clerks in the west; one was elected and still sits as a city councilman; another has been elected city treasurer and is at present cashier of a national bank; one has become eminent as a practical chemist and assayer; two are members of the faculty of the college, and two others are rendering valuable service as instructors therein; some have gone into mercantile and other offices; some have undertaken business on their own account; while not a few have chosen agricultural and mechanical pursuits, in which the advantages of thorough mental training will give them a superiority over those not so well educated. Of those alluded to as having engaged in teaching, one has been the principal of a flourishing institution in Pennsylvania; one is now in his second year as principal of the Ohio institution; one has been at the head of a day school in Cincinnati, and later of the Colorado institution; a third has had charge of the Oregon institution; a fourth is at the head of a day school in St Louis; three others have respectively founded and are now at the head of schools in New Mexico, North Dakota, and Evansville, Indiana, and others have done pioneer work in establishing schools in Florida and in Utah.”

Later years would unfold a similar tale of subsequent students; in 1907 there were 134 in the college and 59 in the Kendall School.

There is a normal department attached to the college, to which are admitted six hearing young men and women for one year who are recommended as being anxious to study methods of teaching the deaf and likely to profit thereby. Their course of study for 1898–1899 included careful training in the oral method, instruction in Bell’s Visible Speech, instruction in the anatomy of the vocal organs, lectures on sound, observation of methods, oral and manual, in Kendall School, lectures on various subjects connected with the deaf and their education, lectures on pedagogy, lessons in the language of signs, practical work with classes in Kendall School under the direction of the teachers, correction of essays of the introductory class, &c. But the greatest advantage of the year’s course is that the half-dozen hearing students live in the college, have their meals with the hundred deaf, and mix with them all day long—if they wish it—in social intercourse and recreation. We are very far indeed from saying that one such year is sufficient to make a hearing man a qualified teacher of the deaf, but the arrangement is based on the right principle, and it sets his feet on the right path to learn how to teach—so far as this art can be learned. The recent regulation of the board of education in England, prohibiting hearing pupil teachers in schools for the deaf, is deplorable, retrograde and inimical to the best interests of the deaf. It shows a complete ignorance of their needs. The younger a teacher begins to mix with that class the better he will teach them.

In 1886 a royal commission investigated the condition and education of the deaf in Great Britain, and in 1889 issued its report. Some of the recommendations most worthy of notice were that deaf children from seven to sixteen years of age should be compelled to attend a day school or institution, part, or the whole, of the expense being borne by the local school authority; that technical instruction should be given, and that all the children should be taught to speak and lip-read on the “pure” oral method unless physically or mentally disqualified, those who had partial hearing or remains of speech being entirely educated by that method. To the last mentioned recommendation—concerning the method to be adopted—two of the commissioners took exception, and another stated his recognition of some advantage in the manual method.

As a result of the report of the royal commission a bill was passed in 1893 making it compulsory for all deaf children to be educated. This was to be done by the local education authority, either by providing day classes or an institution for them, or by sending them to an already existing institution, parents having the choice, within reasonable limits, of the school to which the child should go. School-board classes came into existence in almost every large town where there was no institution, and sometimes where one existed. Those who uphold the day-school system advance the arguments that the pupils are not, under it, cut off from the influence of home life as they are in institutions; that such influences are of great advantage; that this system permits the deaf to mix freely with their hearing brethren, &c. The objections, however, to this arrangement outweigh its possible advantages. The latter, indeed, amount to little; for home influences in many cases, especially in the poorer parts of the large cities, are not the best, and communication with the hearing children who attend some of the day schools may not be an unmixed blessing, nor is freedom to run wild on the streets between school hours. But it may be urged further that it is difficult, except in very large towns, to obtain a sufficient number of deaf children attending a day school to classify them according to their status, while it is more than one teacher can do to give sufficient attention to several children, each at a different stage of instruction from any other. Moreover, the deaf need more than mere school work; they need training in morals and manners, and receive much less of it from their parents than their hearing brothers and sisters. This can only be given in an institution wherein they board and lodge as well as attend classes. The existing institutions were from 1893 placed, by the act of that date, either partly or wholly under the control of the school board. They were put under the inspection of the government, and as long as they fulfilled the requirements of the inspectors as regards education, manual and physical training, outdoor recreation and suitable class-room and dormitory accommodation, they might remain in the hands of a committee who collected, or otherwise provided, one-third of the total expenditure, and received two-thirds from public sources. Or else, the institution might be surrendered entirely to the management of the public school authority, and then the whole of the expenditure was to be borne by that body. Extra government grants of five guineas per pupil are now given for class work and manual or technical training. Such is the state of things at the present day, except, of course, that the school board has given place to the county council as local authority.

Some teachers have asked for the children to be sent to school at the age of five instead of seven. This savours of another confession that the “pure” oral method had not done what was expected of it at first. First, the demand was for the method itself; then came requests for more teachers, so that, the classes being smaller, each pupil should receive more attention; this meant more money, and so this was asked for; then day schools would remedy the failure by giving the pupils opportunities of talking with the public in general; then we were told the teachers were unskilful; finally, more time is needed. And yet the language of the pupils is no better to-day than it was in 1881, even though they were at school only four or five years then as opposed to nine or ten now.

To Addison’s Report on a Visit to some Continental Schools for the Deaf (1904–1905) we are indebted for the following information. The new school at Frankfort-on-Maine, accommodating forty or fifty children at a cost of £40 to £50 per head, is modelled on the plan of a family home. The main objects are to obtain good speech and lip-reading Foreign schools. and to use these colloquially; the work is very thorough and the teaching very skilful. At Munich those of the hundred pupils who have some hearing are separated from the others and taught by ear as well as eye. At Vienna (Royal Institution) a small proportion of the pupils are day scholars, as they are at Munich, and the teaching is, of course, carried on by the oral method, as it is all over Germany. Here, however, the teachers “think it impossible to educate fully all deaf-mutes by the oral method only.” In the Jews’ Home at Vienna the semi-deaf are taught by the acoustic method, and are not allowed to see the teacher’s lips at all. At Dresden, a large school of 240 pupils, the director favours smaller institutions than his own, considers the oral method possible for all but the “weak-minded deaf,” and divides his pupils into A, B and C divisions, according to intellect. In the first division good speech is obtained. Saxony boasts a home for deaf homeless women, grants premiums for deaf apprentices, and trains its teachers of the deaf in the institution itself—a good record and plan. In the royal institution at Berlin Addison saw good lip-reading and thorough work, though the deaf in the city—as in most of the schools—signed. The men in Berlin “like the adult deaf generally, were all in favour of a combination of methods, and condemned the pure oral theory as impracticable.” At Hamburg, again, “hand signs” were used at least for Sunday service. Schleswig has two schools. Pupils are admitted first to the residential institution, where they are instructed for a year, and are then divided into A, B and C classes, “according to intellect.” The lowest class (C) remain at this institution for the rest of the eight years, and a “certain amount of signing” is allowed in their instruction. A and B classes are boarded out in the town and attend classes at a day school specially built for them, being taught orally exclusively.

In Denmark Addison saw what impressed him most. All the children of school age go to Fredericia and remain for a year in the boarding institution. They are then examined and the semi-deaf—29% of the whole—are sent to Nyborg. The rest—all the totally deaf—remain another year at Fredericia and are then divided into the A, B and C divisions before mentioned, and on the same criterion—intellect. Those in C—the lowest class, 28% of the totally deaf—are sent to Copenhagen, where they are taught by the manual method, no oral work being attempted. Those in B class, numbering 19% of the deaf, remain in the residential institution in Fredericia and are taught orally, while the best pupils—A class—are boarded out in the town and attend a special day school. These form 26% of the deaf, and those with whom they live encourage them to speak when out of as well as when in school. The buildings and equipment generally are excellent. “Hand signs” are used at Nyborg, indicating the position of the vocal organs when speaking, and, as might be expected, the “lip”-reading is 90% more correct when these symbols—infinitely more visible than most of the movements of the vocal organs and face when speaking—are used at the same time. The idea of these hand signs, by the way, corresponds to that of Graham Bell’s Visible Speech, in which a written symbol is used to indicate the position of the vocal organs when uttering each sound; it is a kind of phonetic writing which is to a slight extent illustrative at the same time. We find natural signs of the utmost value when teaching articulation, to describe the position of the vocal organs. We give these details from Mr Addison’s notes because it is to Germany that so many look for guidance to-day, and it is the home of the so-called “pure” oral method; while the system of classification in Denmark into the four schools which are controlled by one authority, struck him very favourably and so is given rather fully.

In France most of the schools are supported by charity, and the only three government institutions are those at Paris for boys, with 263 pupils lately, at Bordeaux for girls, having 225 inmates, and at Chambéry with 86 boys and 38 girls. In the great majority the method of instruction is professedly pure oral. “But,” said Henri Gaillard (Report, World’s Congress of the Deaf, Missouri, 1904), “this is only in appearance. In reality all of the schools use the combined method; only they are not willing to admit it, because the oral method is the official method, imposed by the inspectors of the minister of the interior.”

In Italy, again, we are told that the teachers sign in most of the schools, which are professedly pure oral.

In Sweden, schools for the deaf have ceased to depend, as they did up to 1891, upon private benevolence. The system is generally the combined, and in schools where the oral method is adopted the pupils are divided into A, B and C divisions, as in Denmark and Dresden, in the two latter divisions of which signs are allowed. In Norway the method is the oral.

Methods of Teaching.—There have always been two principal methods of teaching the deaf, and all education at the present time is carried on by means of one or other or both of these. Where there is sufficient hearing to be utilized, instruction is sometimes given thereby as well, though this auricular method does not seem to make much headway, and experience is not in favour of believing that the sense of hearing, where a little exists, can be “cultivated” to any marked degree. It is really impossible to draw hard and fast lines between these means of instruction. One merges into another, and this other into the next; and no two teachers will, or can, adopt exactly the same lines. It is not desirable that they should, for much must be left to individuality. Orders, rules, methods, should not be absolute laws. Observe them generally, but dispense with them as circumstances, the pupil and opportunity may require. Strong individuality, sympathy, enthusiasm, long intercourse with the deaf, are needed in the teacher, and it is surely obvious that every teacher should have a full command of all the primary means of instruction to begin with, and not of one only.

Where deafness is absolute, or practically so, we have to seek for means that will appeal to the eye instead of the ear. Of these, we have the sign language, writing and printing, pictures, manual alphabets and lip-reading. We have to choose which of these is to be used, if not all, and which must be rejected, if any. Moreover, we have to decide how much or how little one or another is to be adopted if we employ more than one. Hence it is obvious that there may be many different systems and subdivisions of systems. But the two main methods are the manual, which generally depends upon all the above-mentioned means of appealing to the eye except lip-reading, and the oral, which adopts what the manual method rejects, uses writing and printing and perhaps pictures, but excludes finger-spelling and (theoretically) signs. To these two we must add a third means of instruction—the combined system—which rejects no means of teaching, but uses all in most cases. The dual method need hardly be called a separate method or system, for it implies simply the use of the manual method for some pupils and of the oral for others. Nor need we call the mother’s (= intuitive or natural) a separate method in the sense in which we are using the word here, for it is rather a mode of procedure which can be applied manually or orally indifferently. The same may be said of the grammatical “method”; also of the “word method,” which is really the “mother’s.” The “eclectic method” is practically the combined system, or something between that and the dual method, and hardly needs separate classification.

Let us notice the manual method, the oral method, and the combined system, considering with the last the “dual method.”

The chief elements of the manual method are finger-spelling, reading and writing and signing. These are used, that is to say, as means of teaching English and imparting ideas. Signs are used to awaken the child’s thoughts, finger-spelling and writing are used to Manual.express these thoughts in the vernacular. The latter are used to express English, the former to explain English.

We give two manual alphabets, the one-handed being used in America, on the continent of Europe with some variations and additions, in Ireland, and also to some extent in England; the two-handed in Great Britain, Ireland and Australia. A speed of 130 words a minute can be attained when spelling on the fingers. Words are quite readable at this speed.

EB1911 Deaf and Dumb - Fig. 2. The Manual Alphabet. (One-handed.).jpg
The Manual Alphabet. (One-handed.)
EB1911 Deaf and Dumb - Fig. 2.—The Manual Alphabet.jpg
Fig. 2.—The Manual Alphabet. (Two-handed.)

Although reading and writing are common to both methods, the manual and oral, as a matter of fact they seem to be used considerably more in the former than in the latter.

In the oral method articulation and lip-reading are chiefly relied upon; reading and writing are also adopted. The phonetic values of the letters are taught, not the names of the letters; for instance, the sound of the letter ă in “hat” is taught instead of the name Oral. of the letter (long A), though of course the latter is taught where such is the proper pronunciation, as in “hate.”

Here is a chart which was lately in use:

Articulation Sheets.
Analysis of the Vowel Sounds.
Long. Middle. Short. Broad.
fāt(e) = feit fär = far făt = fat fãll = fawl
= mee
    mět = met    
pīn(e) = pain     pĭn = pin    
= nou möve = muv nŏt = not    
tūb(e) = tiub büll = bul tŭb = tub    
Order in which the Vowel Sounds are to be taught.
EB1911 Deaf and Dumb - Vowel sounds.jpg

The consonants are as follows, though the order of teaching them varies:—

p; f; s; h; sh; v = f; th (thin; moth); th (then; smooth); l; r; t; k; b; d; g (go; egg); z = s; m; n; ch = tsh; j = dzh = g; ph = f; kc = k; cs = s; q = kw; x = ks; ng; w = oo; wh = hw; y = e.

The following mode of writing the sounds is now preferred by some as it renders the diacritic marks unnecessary:—

Middle, Broad and Long Vowel Sounds.
ar or oo ee er oa igh ai ew oi ou
  aw   ea ir o-e i-e a-e u-e oy ow
  au     ur     ay      
Short Vowel Sounds.
a o oo e i u
h p ph
t s th sh ch k
l r m n ng w
  b v d z th zh j

These charts are given as examples of those used, but they vary in different schools, as does the order of teaching the vowel and consonant sounds and the combinations. The exact order is not important. Words are made up by combining vowels and consonants as soon as the pupil can say each sound separately.

Here are extracts from the directions on articulation written by a principal to the teacher of the lowest class, which show the method of procedure:—

“(1) Produce the sound of a letter. Each pupil to reproduce, and write it on the tablet.

(2) Point to the letter on the tablet, and make each pupil say it.

(3) The same with combinations of vowels and consonants.

(4) Instead of tablet, each pupil to use rough exercise-book.

(5) Write on tablet and make each pupil articulate from teacher’s writing.

(6) When a combination is made of which a word may be made make all write it in their books, thus:—’te—tea,’ ‘shō—show,’ ‘ŏv—of,’ ‘nālz—nails,’ &c.

(7) When one pupil produces a combination correctly make the others lip-read it from him. In this way make them exercise each other.

(8) When they have a good many sounds and combinations written in their books make them sit down and say them off their books as hearing children do.

(9) Make them say the sounds off the cards, and form combinations on the cards for them to say.

(10) Take each vowel separately and make each pupil use it before and after each consonant.

(11) Take each consonant and put it before and after each vowel.

“The above will suggest other exercises to the teacher.

“Give breathing exercises. Incite emulation as to deep breathing and slow expiration. Never force the voice. Make the pupil speak out, but do not let him strain either the voice or vocal organs. Do not force the tongue, lips, or any organ into position more than you can help. Do all as gently as possible. Register their progress. ‘Ä’ (as in ‘path’; ‘father’). As ‘Ä’ is the basis of all the vowels, being most like all, it is taken first. It is an open vowel. Do not make grimaces, or exaggerate. If false sound be produced do not let the pupil speak loudly; make him speak quietly. If nasal sound be produced do not pinch the nose, but first take the back of the child’s hand, warmly breathe on it, or get a piece of glass, and let the child breathe on it, or press the back of the tongue down. Show the child that when you are saying ‘a’ your tongue lies flat or nearly so, and you do not raise the back of the tongue. Prefix ‘h’ to ‘a’ and make the pupil say ‘ha’ first, then ‘a’ alone.

“‘P.’ If the child does not imitate at the first the teacher should take the back of the hand and let the child feel the puff of air as ‘p’ is formed on the lips.

“‘P’ is produced by the volume of air brought into the cavity of the mouth being, checked by the perfect closure of the lips, which are then opened, and the accumulated air is propelled. The outburst of this propelled air creates the sound of ‘p.’ Take the pupil to see porridge boiling. Pretend to smoke. ‘P’ is taken first because it has no vibration and is the most simple. The consonants should first be joined to each vowel separately, and to prevent the pupils making an after-sound the letters should be said with a pause between, viz. ‘A . . p,’ and as they become more familiar with them, lessen the pause until it is pronounced properly:—‘ap.’”

These directions, which are only brief examples of those given for one particular subject in one particular class, will give an idea of the mode of beginning to teach articulation and lip-reading.

The combined system, as before mentioned, makes use of both the manual and oral method, as well as the auricular, without any hard and fast rule as regards the amount of instruction to be given by means of each, but using more of one and less of another, or Combined method.vice versa, according to the aptitude of the child. It thus follows the sensible, obvious plan of fitting the method to the child and not the unnatural one of forcing the child to try to fit the method.

The following is the way the same principal would teach language to beginners by the combined system:—

“The letters p, q, b and d of the Roman text are to be taught first. The pupils are to do them 9 in. long on the blackboard or tablet first; then trace them on the frames; then on slips of paper with pen and ink, or in rough exercise-book with pen and ink.

“The whole of the Roman text is then to be taught in the same manner, also the small and capital script.

“When the English alphabet has been mastered in the above four forms the pupil may proceed to the printing and writing of his own name. Then his teacher’s and class-mates’ names. Then the names of other persons and the places, things and actions with which he has to do in his daily life. Every direction the teacher has to give in school and out of school should be expressed in speech, writing or finger-spelling, or by any two or all three means. Repetition of such directions by the pupil enables him to learn words before he has finished the alphabet.

“All words to be spelled on one hand first; then two. When a few words have been memorized, they should be written on slips of paper, then in the exercise-books and dated. After this there should be further repetition and exercising. The same course should be taken with phrases and short sentences. Names of persons should be written on cards and slips of paper and pinned to the chest. Names of things to be affixed to them, or written on them. Names of apartments on cards laid in the rooms. Where the object is not available use a picture, or draw the outline and make pupil do the same. Never nod, or point, or jerk the finger, or use any other gesture, without previously giving the word, and when the latter is understood drop the gesture altogether.

“Never allow a single mistake to pass uncorrected, and make pupils always learn the corrections.

“Language should be a translation of life. It should proceed all day long, out of school as well as in it. If spoken so much the better, but finger-spelling is not a hindrance but a valuable help to its acquisition.

“In most language lessons, especially those exemplifying a particular form of sentence, the pupils should:

“(1) Correct each other’s mistakes. Correct ‘mistakes’ designedly made by the teacher.

“(2) Teacher rubs out a word here and there on the blackboard or tablet; pupils to supply them.

“(3) Pupils to answer questions, giving the subject, predicate and object of the sentence as required, e.g. ‘A farmer ploughs the ground.’ ‘Who ploughs the ground?’ ‘What does a farmer do?’ ‘What does he plough?’ Also additional and illustrative questions; e.g. ‘Does the ground plough the farmer?’ ‘Does a farmer plough the sea?’ ‘Does he eat the ground?’ &c.

“The pupils should learn meanings or synonyms of unfamiliar words before such words are signed.

“(4) Teacher gives a word, and requires pupils to exemplify it in a sentence, e.g. ‘sows,’ ‘He sows the seed.’

“(5) Let them give as many sentences as they can think of in the same form.

“Occurrences, incidents, objects, pictures, reading-books, newspaper cuttings and correspondence should all be used.”

The “pure” oral method, as before noticed, came with a bound into popularity in the early seventies. Since then it has had everything in its favour, but the results have been by no means entirely satisfactory, and there is a marked tendency among advocates of The best system.this method to withdraw from the extreme position formerly held. Opinion has gradually veered round till they have come to seek for some sort of via media that shall embrace the good points of both methods. Some now suggest the “dual method”—that those pupils who show no aptitude for oral training shall be taught exclusively by the manual method and the rest by the oral only. While this is a concession which is positively amazing when compared with the title of the booklet containing utterances of the Abbé Tarra, president of the Milan conference in 1880—“The Pure Oral Method the Best for All Deaf Children”!—yet we believe that in no case should the instruction be given by the oral method alone, and that the best system is the “combined.” That the combined system is detrimental to lip-reading has not much more than a fraction of truth in it, for if the command of language is better the pupils can supply the lacunae in their lip-reading from their better knowledge of English. It is found that they have constantly to guess words and letters from the context. Teach all by and through finger-spelling, reading, writing and signing where necessary to explain the English, and teach those in whose case it is worth it by articulation and lip-reading as well. Signs should be used less and less in class work, and English more and more exclusively as the pupil progresses—English in any and every form. A proportion of teachers should be themselves deaf, as in America. They are in perfect understanding and sympathy with their pupils, which is not always the case with hearing teachers. Statistics which we collected in London showed the following results of the education of 403 deaf pupils after they had left school:—

  Manual. Combined. Oral.
Quite satisfactory result 65% 51% 20%
Moderate success 29% 41% 35%
Unsatisfactory result 5% 7% 44%

That the combined system should show to slightly less advantage than the exclusively manual method is what we might perhaps expect, for the time given to oral instruction means time taken from teaching language speedily, the manual method being, we believe, the best of all for this. But it may be worth while to lose a little in command of language for the sake of gaining another means of expressing that language. Hence we advocate the combined system, regarding speech as merely a means of expressing English, as writing and finger-spelling are, and a good sentence written or finger-spelled as being preferable to a poorer one which is spoken, no matter how distinct the speech may be. It is no answer to point to a few isolated cases where the oral method is considered to have succeeded, for one success does not counterbalance a failure if by another method you would have had two successes; and, moreover, these oral successes would have been still greater successes—we are taking language in any form as our criterion—had the teacher fully known and judiciously used the manual method as well as the oral.

The exclusive use of the oral method leads, generally speaking, to comparative failure, for the following, among other, reasons:—(1) It is a slow way of teaching English, the learning to speak the elements of sound taking months at least, and seldom being fully mastered for years. The “word method,” by the way, starts at once with words without taking their component phonetic elements separately; but it has yet to be proved that any quicker progress is made by this means of teaching speech than by the other. (2) Lip-reading is, to the deaf, sign-reading with the disadvantage of being both microscopic and partially hidden. The deaf hear nothing, they only partly see tiny movements of the vocal organs. Finger-spelling, writing, signing, are incomparably more visible, while 130 words a minute can be attained by finger-spelling, and read at that speed. (3) The signs—as they are to the deaf—made by the vocal organs are entirely arbitrary, and have not even a fraction of the redeeming feature of naturalness which oralists demand in ordinary gestures. (4) Circumstances, such as light, position of the speaker, &c., must be favourable for the lip-reading to approach certainty. (5) Styles of speech vary, and it is a constant experience that even pupils who comparatively easily read their teacher’s lips, to whose style of utterance they are accustomed, fail to read other people’s lips. (6) There is a great similarity between certain sounds as seen on the lips, e.g. between t and d, f and v, p and b, s and z, k and g. Which is meant has usually to be guessed from the context, and this requires a certain amount of knowledge of language, which is the very thing that is needed to be imparted. (7) The deliberate avoidance by the teacher of the pupil’s own language—signs—as an aid to teaching him English. If a hearing boy does not understand the meaning of a French word he looks it up in the dictionary and finds its English equivalent. If the deaf boy does not understand a word in English, the simplest, quickest, best way to explain it is, in most cases, to sign it. (8) The distaste of the pupil for the method. This is common. (9) The mechanical nature of the method. There is nothing to rouse his interest nor to appeal to his imagination in it. (10) The temptation to the teacher to use very simple phrases, owing to the difficulty the pupil has in reading others from his lips. Consequently the pupil comparatively seldom learns advanced language.

Other means of educating the deaf in addition to the oral should have a fair trial in modern conditions for the same length of time that the oral method has been in operation. To consider pupils taught manually in oral schools fair criteria of what can be done by the manual method or combined system, when those pupils have confessedly been relegated to the manual class because of “dulness” (as in the case of the C divisions in Denmark and Dresden), is obviously unfair. This division, moreover, assumes that the “pure” oral method is the best for the brightest pupils. The comparing of oral pupils privately taught by a tutor to themselves with manual pupils from an institution crippled and hampered by need of funds, where they had to take their chance in a class of twelve, and the comparison of oral pupils of twelve years’ standing with combined system pupils of four years’, are also obviously unfair. Reference may be made on this subject to Heidsiek’s remarkable articles on the question of education, which appeared in the American Annals of the Deaf from April 1899 to January 1900.

The opinions of the deaf themselves as to the relative merits of the methods of teaching also demand particular attention. The ignoring of their expressed sentiments by those in authority is remarkable. In the case of school children it might fairly be argued that they are too young to know what is good for them, but with the adult deaf who have had to learn the value of their education by bitter experience in the battle of life it is otherwise. In Germany, the home of the “pure” oral method, 800 deaf petitioned the emperor against that method. In 1903 no fewer than 2671 of the adult deaf of Great Britain and Ireland who had passed through the schools signed a petition in favour of the combined system. The figures are remarkable, for children under sixteen were excluded, those who had not been educated in schools for the deaf were excluded, and the education of the deaf has only lately been made compulsory, while many thousands who live scattered about the country in isolation probably never even heard of the petition, and so could not sign it. In America an overwhelming majority favour the combined system, and it is in America that by far the best results of education are to be seen. At the World’s Congress of the Deaf at St Louis in 1904 the combined system was upheld, as it was at Liége. From France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, Finland, Italy, Russia, everywhere in fact where they are educated, the deaf crowd upon us with expressions of their emphatic conviction, repeated again and again, that the combined system is what meets their needs best and brings most happiness into their lives. The majority of deaf in every known country which is in favour of this means of education is so great that we venture to say that in no other section of the community could there be shown such an overwhelming preponderance of opinion on one side of any question which affects its well-being. In the case of the rare exceptions, the pupil has almost always been brought up in the strictest ignorance of the manual method, which he has been sedulously taught to regard as clumsy and objectionable.

The Blind Deaf.

In the summary tables (p. 283) of the 1901 British census the following numbers are given of those suffering from other afflictions besides deafness:—

1. Blind and deaf and dumb 58
2. Blind and deaf 389
3. Blind, deaf and dumb and lunatic 5
4. Blind, deaf and lunatic 5
5. Deaf and dumb and lunatic 136
6. Deaf and lunatic 51
7. Blind, deaf and dumb and feeble-minded 5
8. Blind, deaf and feeble-minded 8
9. Deaf and dumb and feeble-minded 221
10. Deaf and feeble-minded 100

In addition to these, 2 are said to be blind, dumb and lunatic; 20 dumb and lunatic; 3 blind, dumb and feeble-minded, and 222 dumb and feeble-minded. These are certainly outside our province, which is the deaf. The “dumbness” in these four classes is aphasia, due to some brain defect.

Of those in the list, classes 7, 8, 9 and 10 are (we are strongly of opinion) incorrectly described, being, as we think, composed of those who are simply feeble-minded as well as, in classes 7 and 8, blind. Their so-called “deafness” is merely inability of the brain to notice what the ear does actually hear and to govern the vocal organs to produce articulate sound. Many of classes 9 and 10, however, may not be “feeble-minded” at all, but only rather dull pupils whom their teachers have failed to educate.

It is safe to say that in some instances in classes 3, 4, 5 and 6 the persons were only assumed to be deaf. Again, cases of deaf people who to all appearance could not fairly be called insane but who may have had violent temper or some slight eccentricity being relegated to an asylum have come to our notice. A good teacher might accomplish much with some of these described as lunatic in classes 5 and 6. Finally, classes 3 and 4 may have become lunatic owing to the loneliness and brooding inseparable to a great extent from such terrible afflictions as blindness and deafness combined. Probably the isolation became intolerable, and if only they had had some one who understood them to educate them their reason might have been saved.

We are most concerned with the first two classes, and in considering them have to take individual cases separately, as there is no regular institution for them in Great Britain.

Mr W. H. Illingworth, head master of the Blind School at Old Trafford, Manchester, tells how David Maclean, a blind and deaf boy, was taught, in the 1903 report of the conference of teachers of the deaf. The boy lost both sight and hearing, but not before six years of age, which was an advantage, and could still speak or whisper to some extent when admitted to school. His teacher began with kindergarten and attempts at proper voice-production. He gave the sound of “ah” and made David feel his larynx. Then he tickled the boy under his arms, and when he laughed made him feel his own larynx, so that the boy should notice the similarity of the vibration. Then, acting on the theory that brain-waves are to some extent transmittable, Mr Illingworth procured a hearing boy as companion, and, ordering him to keep his mind fixed on the work and to place one hand on David’s shoulder, made him repeat what was articulated. The blind-deaf boy’s right hand was placed on Mr Illingworth’s larynx and the left on the companion’s lips. Thus the pupil felt the sound and the companion’s imitation of it, and soon reproduced it himself. From this syllables and words were formed by degrees. The pupil knew the forms of some letters of the alphabet in the Roman type before he lost sight and hearing, and the connexion between them and the Braille characters and manual alphabet was the next step achieved. This, and all the steps, were aided to a great extent by the hearing and seeing boy companion’s sympathetic influence and concentration of mind, in Mr Illingworth’s opinion. After this stage his progress was comparatively quick and easy; he read from easy books in Braille, and people spelled to him in the ordinary way by forming the letters with their right hand on his left.

From Mr B. H. Payne of Swansea comes the following account of how four blind-deaf pupils were taught:—

“We have received four pupils who were deaf-mute and blind, one of them being also without the sense of smell. One was born deaf, the others having lost hearing in childhood. There was no essential difference between the methods employed in their education and those of ‘sighted’ deaf children. Free-arm writing of ordinary script was taught on the blackboard, the teacher guiding the pupil’s hand, or another pupil guiding it over the teacher’s pencilling. The script alphabet was cut on a slate, and the pupil’s pencil made to run in the grooves. The one-hand alphabet, used with the left hand, was employed to distinguish the letters so written. The script alphabet was also formed in wire for him. The object was to enable the pupil when he had gained language to write to friends and others who were unacquainted with Braille, but the latter notation was taught to enable the pupil to profit by the literature provided for the blind. Both one- and two-hand alphabets were taught, the teacher forming the letters with one of his own hands upon the pupil’s hand. The name of the object presented to the pupil was spelled and written repeatedly until he had memorized it. Qualities were taught by comparison, and actions by performance. The words ‘Come with me’ were spelled before he was guided to any place, and other sentences were spelled as they would be spoken to a ‘hearing’ child in appropriate associations. The blind pupil followed with his hands the signs made by junior pupils who were unacquainted with language, and in this way readily learned to sign himself, the art being of advantage in stimulating and in forming the mind, and explaining language to him. One of the pupils was confirmed, and in preparation for the rite over 800 questions were put to him by finger-spelling. His education was continued in Braille. The deaf-born boy developed a fair voice, and could imitate sounds by placing his hand on a speaker’s mouth. Two of them had a keen sense of humour, and would slyly move the finger to the muscles of their companion’s face to feel the smile with which a bit of pleasantry was responded to. In connexion with the pupil who was confirmed, the vicar who examined him declared that none of his questions had been answered better even by candidates possessed of all their faculties than they were by this blind-deaf boy.”

Mr W. M. Stone, principal of the Royal Blind School at West Craigmillar, Edinburgh, gives this very interesting information:

“We have five blind-deaf children at this institution, and all are wonderfully clever and intelligent. In all cases the children possessed hearing for a time and had some knowledge—very slight in some cases—of language. The method of teaching is, first to teach them the names of common objects on their fingers. A well-known object is put in the child’s hand and then the word is spelled on the hand,—the child’s hand of course. The child learns to associate these signs—he does not know they are letters—with the object, and so he learns a name. Other names are then given and similar names are associated together, and by noticing the difference in the names the child gradually grasps the idea of an alphabet. For instance, if he learns the words cat, bat and mat, he will quickly distinguish that the words are alike except in their initial letters. When in this way language has been acquired he is taught the Braille system of reading for the blind and his progress is now very rapid. This method may appear very complicated and difficult, but in reality it is not so. There are no institutions in Great Britain specially for the blind-deaf, nor are there any in America. I do not know of any on the continent. Our own blind children here are receiving the same education as our other children, and in some ways are more advanced than seeing and hearing children of their own ages. They not only read, write and do arithmetic, but they do typewriting and much manual work.”

Mr Addison mentions two deaf and blind pupils who were taught by the late Mr Paterson of Manchester, and a third in the same school later on. Another was taught in the asylum for the blind in Glasgow, though she only lost hearing and became deaf at ten.

Mr William Wade has written a monograph on the blind-deaf of America, in the preface to which he points out, rightly, that the education of the blind-deaf is not such a stupendous task as people imagine it to be.

“It may not be amiss,” he says, “to state the methods of teaching the first steps to a deaf-blind pupil, that the public may see how exceedingly simple the fundamental principles are, and it should be remembered that those principles are exactly the same in the cases of the deaf and of the deaf-blind, the only difference being in the application—the deaf see, the deaf-blind feel. Some familiar, tangible object—a doll, a cup, or what not—is given to the pupil, and at the same time the name of the object is spelled into its hand by the manual alphabet.” (The one-hand alphabet is in vogue in America.) “By patient persistence, the pupil comes to recognize the manual spelling as a name for a familiar object, when the next step is taken—associating familiar acts with the corresponding manual spelling. A continuation of this simple process gradually leads the pupils to the comprehension of language as a means for communication of thoughts.” Mr Wade is right. Given a sympathetic, resourceful teacher with strong individuality, common-sense, patience, and the necessary amount of time, anything and everything in the way of teaching them is not only possible but certain to be achieved. Language,—give the deaf and the blind-deaf a working command of that and everything else is easy.

In the New York Institution for the Deaf ten blind-deaf pupils were educated, up to the year 1901. Nearly all of these lost one or both senses after they had been able to acquire some knowledge with their aid. In the Perkins Institution for the Blind, Boston, five were taught. It was here that Laura Bridgman was educated by Dr Samuel G. Howe (q.v.); all honour is due to him for being the pioneer in attempting to teach this class of the community, for she was the first blind-deaf person to be taught. Many other schools for the deaf or blind have admitted one or two pupils suffering from both afflictions. In all, seventy cases are mentioned by Mr Wade of those who are quite blind and deaf, and others of people who are partially so. The most interesting, of course, of all these is Helen Keller, if we except Laura Bridgman, in whose case the initial attempt to teach the blind-deaf was made. Helen Keller was taught primarily by finger-spelling into her hand, and signing (which she, of course, felt with her hands) where necessary. Her first teacher was Miss Sullivan. The pupil “acquired language by practice and habit rather than by study of rules and definitions.” Finger-spelling and books were the two great means of educating her at all times. After her grasp of language had been brought to a high standard, Miss Fuller gave her her first lessons in speech, and Miss Sullivan continued them, the method being that of making the pupil feel the vocal organs of the teacher. She learnt to speak well, and to tell (with some assistance from finger-spelling) what some people say by feeling their mouth. Her literary style became excellent; her studies included French, German, Latin, Greek, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, history, ancient and modern, and poetry and literature of every description. Of course she had many tutors, but Miss Sullivan was “eyes and ears” at all times, by acting as interpreter, and this patient teacher had the satisfaction of seeing her pupil pass the entrance examination of Harvard University. To all time the success attained in educating Helen Keller will be a monument of what can be accomplished in the most favourable conditions.  (A. H. P.) 

  1. The two words are common to Teutonic languages, cf. Ger. taub and dumm (only in the sense of “stupid”), Dutch doof and dom; the original meaning seems to have been dull of perception, stupid, obtuse, and the words may be ultimately related. The Gr. τυφλός blind, and τῦφος, smoke, mist, probably show the same base.
  2. For our résumé of the history we are indebted solely to Arnold (Education of Deaf Mutes, Teachers’ Manual) as far as the date of the founding of the Old Kent Road Institution.