If a person is born deaf and dumb, how can they think? In "what language" do these people think? Do they develop their own inner language?

Unfortunately I have not found an answer, and I actually doubt it has ever been elucidated.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Related question: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/10579/… - from my answer: "Deaf people often report thinking visually - in sign, print, or lip-reading for example. Blind people to some degree, and deafblind people to a greater degree report some tactile thinking - presumably if they use braille or a tactile sign language." $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Apr 16 '17 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg - you reckon this is a dupe? $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Apr 20 '17 at 9:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @AliceD Not a dupe. By the way, I saw this yesterday: youtube.com/watch?v=VXiS2gQ-w3M $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Apr 20 '17 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ being a deaf person I think with echo location because my thoughts bounce off of surroundings before returning to my brain where I can process them and think about my surroundings. At first learning this concept was difficult, however, my time spent traveling with a whale pod in the North Atlantic allowed me to learn from their skills. $\endgroup$
    – zelda
    Nov 13 '19 at 3:32

Short answer
The inner voice of congenitally (pre-lingually) deaf people who have not received treatment like cochlear implantation, is not sound-based. Instead, it is mainly based on visual images, such as sign-language or printed material.

According to an anecdotal report published in the Independent of a congenitally deaf person, who deliberately refused cochlear implantation or other treatments, the inner voice is a visual entity taking the form of sign-language, or visual images, or sometimes printed words.

An interesting report from UCL investigated congenitally deaf people suffering from positive psychotic symptoms. In normal-hearing people, positive psychotic symptoms typically involve hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). In congenitally deaf folks, who obviously never had the chance to hear any voices in their lives, these auditory hallucinations were described as

[Not consisting of] sounds, but [...] the gender and identity of the voice [were recognized. They were] image[s] of [...] voice[s] signing [,] or lips moving in their mind.

- The Independent, December 21, 2013, UK


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