Deaf Culture: "How
do Deaf People Think to Themselves"
In a message dated 1/5/2015 9:02:22 P.M. Lauren McGoveran asked:
QUESTION: I have a question for anyone here who is
Deaf. Really, it's a point of curiosity. As a hearing individual, I
think to myself in English, as though I were speaking to myself, but
inside my head. When you think to yourself, what is the "medium", if
that's the right word? Do you use mental imagery?
Actually, "Hearing people" do quite a bit of thinking without using
You may be interested in my "nonlinguistic communication" article.
Congenitally Deaf people (deaf from birth) tend to do a lot more
visual based thinking than Hearing people do. However, most Deaf
Americans (even those who are profoundly deaf and do not talk) have
usually had quite a bit of exposure to "words" since words usually
are on the lips of people all around from birth on up. Many deaf
babies form "words" on their lips but do not exhale to produce
sound. Then later most of us usually receive some amount of oral
training during which we practice saying words. Thus it is rare to
find a Deaf person without a set (whether large or small) of "words"
or "thought containers resembling words."
You can get a feel for what it is "like" to think using words but
not with sound by imagining yourself reading a novel about someone
with a multi-syllable unpronounceable (by you) last name from a
different country. You may not know how to pronounce that last name
but each time you "see" it in the book you know exactly the
character to whom the author is referring. You don't have to SAY the
character's name in your mind in order to enjoy the book.
- Dr. Bill
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