Field of Science

How blind children learn the verb "see"

See is one of the most common words in English. For instance, while time, the most common English noun, gets 3,550,000,000 Google hits, see gets a very respectable 2,980,000,000. This compares well with talk (711,000,000) and eat (253,000,000). This means that blind children can't really avoid the verb altogether. In fact, look and see are among the very first verbs that blind children learn, just like sighted children.

So what do they think it means?

I probably can't answer the question completely, but here are some relevant research results:

When a sighted 3-year-old is asked to "look up," he will tilt their heads upwards, even if they are blindfolded. A blind 3-year-old raises her hands instead.

If told "You can touch that table, but don't look at it," the blind 3-year-old will lightly touch the table. If you later tell her she cal look at the table, she may explore all the surfaces of the table with her hands.

It's not likely that blind children are explicitly taught these meanings for these words, so they probably created what are very reasonable meanings for them.

(This research is summarized in Language and experience: Evidence from the blind child by Barbara Landau and Lila Gleitman.)

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