LAFON 59A THE PRIMARY HEARING (road to language) part 19

Around the age of 7-8 months, the child spells his first word. « When he’s 7 – 8 months, the child uses articulation movements, as we call them, but indeed, they are tongue and mouth movements, and he learns them quite by chance ; he makes movements with his mouth, which are no longer digestive system’s movements, and that he’s able to use now even if no food is delivered, and if there is nothing to breastfeed or suckle. So, he’s gonna make movements outside of their object ; therefore, some movements will occur by chance at the same time as the voiced exhalation. For the parents, that is the first word spelled »(1).

Parents encourage these sounds pronounced by chance. Little by little, the child discovers the speech, thanks to his parents.

At about the same age, the flat’s front door may slam, and the mother tells his child : « Daddy ! ». The child is going to repeat « Daddy ». This « Daddy » designates, for the child of this age, the one who is absent and is going to arrive. So, this articulation is used to refer to, but also to make appear ‘’Daddy’’. That’s when the concept of the word crystallises, for the child.

When the child discovers/understands that this articulation serves to all this, it means he took the first steps (nearly in the true sense of the word) towards an articulated language which is the Human language.

« The mother is the one who makes appear preferential articulations, tones and melodies through her behaviour. So the mother progressively takes the child towards herself or lets the child come towards herself, towards her language, her speaking, her expressive and communication codes.It is rather like the child who learns how to walk : his mother opens her arms to make him come, she steps back progressively to allow him to move forward and to discover the gesture to make one step, two steps, and to produce the automation of this gesture. She asks him to produce it, and I think that the image of the mother stepping back before her child, to let himself discover the walking’s automation, is also a really good image for the language too. The mother has no positive action ; on the contrary, she has an erasing action. This same action pulls the child towards herself, and the fact of attracting him through walking produces walking via the language, as well as attracting him through the language produces speech development. Similarly, there is no real difference between walking and speaking : these are organized movements, gestures. Speaking is only made of gestures, like walking or communicating, for the child. We forget it because we give a lot of importance to acoustics, while acoustics will only have importance later on »(2).

Thus, everyone discovers his own language little by little.

« Language and its oral expressions reflect the impregnation of the subject by this collective language and its use for communication of course, but also for the formulation of ideas, whether they are expressed or not. These last activities represent what we call verbal thinking »(3)

« The hearing child discovers the language naturally, as the figment of his imagination, and he develops his thinking, his logic and his reasoning. This is not the adult having an educational role towards this child who does it : he only provides him a favourable ground for his growth. What appears spontaneously among hearing children living in a culturally correct environment only scarcely appears similarly among deaf children »(4)

« The deaf child remains focused on what is concrete, his access to imagination and abstraction is difficult. The exploration of objects needs to be full to allow images to be structured in the memory. While the hearing child precedes sensory information as soon as he knows some elements, he imagines the others and, as he checks some of them, he extrapolates to what he has memorized and identifies before having explored everything. The deaf child misses his ability to imagine because he remains committed to concrete elements. This example is only the reflection of language possibilities. Abstraction mechanisms are built starting from verbal language and testing through action and speech, but these same mechanisms remain at a rudimentary level. Nevertheless, only abstraction allows the child to access a logic and a thought which are specific human values, and are essential to cultural and educational achievements. »(2).

This is why it is important to the deaf child to benefit from hearing aids as soon as possible, in order to allow his speech to best develop.


(1) Pr. J.C. LAFON « Text about speech   oral presentation   Délémont 1977 » page 12.

(2) Pr. J.C. LAFON « Text about speech oral presentation   Délémont 1977 » page 13.

(3) Pr. J.C. LAFON « Phonetic & acoustic intelligibility » Bulletin of Audiophonology Volume 9 N°5 1979 page 12.

(4) Pr. J.C. LAFON « Hearing impaired children » page 20.

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