Tuesday, October 14, 2008

all's quiet with the shepherds...



Am reading "Seeing Voices" by Oliver Sacks, a book about sign language and language acquisition...I wouldn't really recommend reading it unless you know someone with no speech/language, or are that someone...it is quite "jargon-y" and written in a very left-brained manner.  To me, it is a much harder read than his "Awakenings", or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat", but that could be because they both contained case studies, my favorite method of learning about anything.  Anywhoo, in this book Dr. Sacks mentions King Psammetichos, an Egyptian ruler in 7 BC who was setting out to prove that Egyptian was the world's oldest language.  To attempt to prove this, he gave his newborn twins to two shepherds, instructing them not to speak to them, or in front of them, at all.  The infants were kept in total silence continuously, away from their family, until at age 2 one of the twins said "bekos", which means "bread" in Phrygian.  He then concluded that Phrygian was the oldest language.  What the experiment really ended up proving, (besides the fact that Egyptian kings are wacko and this man was a complete, raving lunatic) is that language is situational, meaning it is dependent on input in a child's environment.  (By the way, where was the mother in all of this?!)  It did kind of knock me in between the eyes as far as whether we have done enough to help Mas learn to communicate...I will say I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed considerably, just knowing we have tried just about everything we have known to try.  We at least have one up on Egyptian Kings from 7 BC.  As we wade through the red tape required to get Mas his latest communication device, I still can't help but appreciate the fact that most people are given the ability to speak.  My nickname growing up was "Motormouth", so it is even more odd that I should have a child with no voice!  And green eyes!!  And blonde hair!!!  Just a nice little reminder that sometimes we have to let go of the handlebars and let the universe do the driving, if only to illustrate to us that we can't control everything.