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A Man Without Words
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A Man Without Words

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  350 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews

"At the level of sheer pleasure in reading, A Man without Words is as gripping as a novel, eliciting great sympathy for both protagonist and author. . . . The question that drives itwhat is it like to be without language?should be of interest to any reflective person, and it is one of the great scientific questions of all time."Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinc

Paperback, 210 pages
Published August 29th 1995 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 1991)
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It was difficult to review this book, because on the one hand, Schaller has done a great thing by publicizing the existence of people who have not had the opportunity to learn any standardized language. I'm sure this book changed the minds of some linguists and ASL interpreters, and the subject of the biography was very lucky to have come across someone with the patience to teach him language. However interesting the subject may have been, on the other hand is Schaller's disgusting exoticization ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Condescending and ill-informed. I really didn't like this book. The author even states that when this "languageless" man encounters a Deaf person, they exchange more information than she had been able to in weeks with him. Then the end of the book has a description of a group of "languageless" people who apparently are communicating without language! They are all deaf and come from the same country...gosh could it be they have a different signed language or are using a pidgin created from the va ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was excited to dive into this book given the subject matter and the questions that it raised. It was a good read. I flew through the early pages. But, as I got further into the text and the story and learned more about this man I became somewhat appalled at what I was reading. In fact, I wrote a rather lengthy and opinionated paper on this book arguing that this woman obliterated a profound and unique language that this man had. She painted an entire picture of him from the very beginning as b ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed this book. However, she had a type of vocabulary that was very biased and insensitive. I wished she didn't view herself as some God or heavenly sent angel that turned Ildefonso "ignorance" into something that allowed him to embrace humanity and socialization. I believe she gives herself too much credit and little to the real main character.
Although, I admire her for her patience and continuance to research "language-less" members of society.
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
The concept behind the story is fascinating. The author finds a 27-year-old man who hadn't ever learned a formal language. She discussed how she taught him language and the moment Ildefonso put everything together.

I had never considered that a child who was born deaf may never learn language unless there are community resources available to teach a sign language. (There is more than one sign language, btw. ASL is just one kind.) If a child is born deaf to hearing parents who don't k
Chie Alemán
Sorry this isn't a better review, but I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts. What I really liked about this book was being able to see into the world of a Deaf man without a formal language, but I didn't care for the author or her style. There seemed to be a veiled audism to the book that was a little off-putting. However, it is interesting to see how as long as there's is (healthy) human interaction of some kind, there will be a kind of language development, even if it isn't quite the same k ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book about a language-less deaf man and the young woman who patiently introduces him to the fact that everything has a name. The author has a passion for American Sign Language (ASL) and was neither a teacher nor linguist. You learn about his experiences--how he came to be 27 years old without language--as well as what she uncovers when she researches language acquisition in adulthood realizing how little has been published about it.
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents of deaf children
Recommended to Nick by: Radiolab
A certain episode of Radiolab featured this story as a way of considering the power and necessity of language for human flourishing. (You can listen at this link). Schaller tells the story of a young man she meets almost by accident at a class for deaf students at a university in California in the 1970s. After interacting with him briefly, she discovers that his inability to communicate is not ignorance about the particular signs of American Sign Language, but is actually a consequence of the fa ...more
Wendy Wolpert-DeWitt
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Wendy by: Dr. Kraft
Shelves: psychology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Therese by: Book club selection

I’m sure many of us have wondered at one time or another what it would be like to be deaf or blind, and while the visually impaired usually receive more attention, this book focuses on what it is like to be hearing impaired in a world of sound, a world of language. When the author takes an interest in ASL (American Sign Language) and gets a job as a translator at a college in Los Angeles, she notices a Mexican man sitting in the corner watching everyone else but not participating in any wa
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