A Special Case of Philosophical Reflection about the Origin of language: Victor, the Wild Child of Aveyron

Alessandro Prato

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/ths.2016.004

Abstract


The paper focuses on the analysis of Jean Itard’s writings documenting the program of linguistic re-education of Victor de l’Aveyron, a wild child found in France at the end of the eighteenth century. When discovered, the boy was seemingly twelve or thirteen years old and suffered from a severe form of deficiency in his intellectual and linguistic development, which made him utterly unable to speak and communicate with others. Itard’s original method of re-education is examined here in relation to both the positive results he achieved from a cognitive point of view (but also the negative ones from the point of view of the ontogenetic birth of language) and the most significant outcomes reached by the eighteenth century philosophy of language through Locke’s and Condillac’s semiotic theories.


Keywords


arbitrariness; abstraction; natural signs; language of action; special education

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