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18th November 2012

300 year old book reveals early attempts at deaf communication

A communication manual which belonged to a deaf teenager has been discovered at an English manor. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think, except that the book happens to be 300 years old.

The book belonged to Alexander Popham, who was born into a noble family in the 1660s. When his family discovered that Popham was deaf, they employed teachers to help him learn to communicate in order to maintain his social status.
 
The book is leather-bound, and a linguist from Oxford University told Live Science website that it may show that one of the boy’s tutors understood many years before the rest of the world that deaf people needed their own language to communicate.
 
In findings which were presented last week at the Royal Society, it has been reported that the boy’s tutor believed that in order to teach the boy to speak, he should also learn the boy’s language. It is believed that they used sign language together, and the boy went on to learn how to communicate, becoming famous as a result.
 
Just think - if the book had not been kept in a leather-bound case, it might not have lasted this long, and we would never have known.
 
Read more at the article here.
 
For more Deaf News, click here.
 
Photograph belongs to The Royal Society

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