E-7000514 - 5 One of the most dramatic illustrations of the...

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Unformatted text preview: 5 One of the most dramatic illustrations of the dependency of language on thought is the experience of Helen Keller as she became aware that things have symbolic names that represent them. The impact of this discovery, made at age 7, M changed her behavior from that ofan intractable, undisciplined animal to that of a language-oriented human being. Her teacher Anne Sullivan described the events (Keller 1961, pp. 273—274): I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while i pumped. As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, t spelled ”w-a—t~e-r” in Helen’s free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face. She spelled ”water” several times. Then she dropped on the ground and asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis and suddenly turning around she asked for my name. . All the way back to the house she was highly excited, and learned the name of every object she touched, so that in a few hours she had added thirty new words to her vocabulary. Helen Keller also described the transformation caused by her own awareness of language as follows (Keller 1961, p. 34): As the cool water gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. i stood still, my whole atten- tion fixed upon the motion of her fingers. ‘ Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten-ea thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. i knew then that ”w—a—t—e—r” meant the wonderful, cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awak— ened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set-it free. . .. i left the well- house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. ' Helen Keller had learned that a word can be used to signify objects and to order the events, ideas, and meaning of the world about her. Language had be- come a tool for her to use. ...
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