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Juan Pablo Bonet

Spanish priest and educator of the disabled (sixteenth century)

Bonet, JUAN PABLO, a Spanish priest and one of the first to give attention to the education of the deaf and dumb, b. towards the end of the sixteenth century. He became secretary of the High Constable of Castile. The latter’s brother being a deaf-mute, Bonet took his education in hand. To make his pupil understand words and speak them he invented a system of visible signs and of gymnastics for pronunciation. This consisted in certain signs representing to the sense of sight the sounds of words, in exercises of breathing in the formation of sounds and to adapt the different organs of articulation, the lips, tongue, and teeth, to the proper pronunciation of each sound. He reduced his system to practice by means of a manual alphabet—a combination of signs made with the hands representing the various letters—and a description of the dispositions of the vocal organ necessary to the pronunciation of each letter. He succeeded fairly well with his pupil and explained the principles of his system in a book, “Reduction de las letras y arte para ensenar hablar los mudos” (Madrid, 1620).

G. M. SAUVAGE


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