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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a unique form of speech that reproduces words by using the fingers. Originally, dactylology was used by people who had taken a vow of silence: the necessity for communication was stronger than church canons. Subsequently, dactylology came into use for communicating with the deaf.

There is a one-hand and a two-hand system of dactylology (the former is more comfortable). Various positions of the fingers reproduce the letters of the alphabet (see Figure 1), and the person receiving the communication follows the hand movements. In dactylological speech the letters are formed precisely. In a monaural system of speech such as lipreading, dactylology helps perceive the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds (for example, g—k, d—t, and b—p) and hard and soft sounds (for example, t—t’ and s—s’). These distinctions are not picked up by the eye. (For example, a hand lying on the chest signifies a voiced sound, while a hand held away from the chest signifies an unvoiced sound.)

Figure 1. Russian hand alphabet for deaf-mutes

Dactylology significantly facilitates the mastery and use of words and language by the deaf. Dactylological speech can be mastered by deaf children as a first speech form, before the mastery of oral and written forms of speech. In Soviet kindergartens and beginning classes at schools for the deaf, dactylology is used as the basic means of teaching oral speech, and in older classes at these schools it is used as an auxiliary means. Dactylology is the sole means of communication in teaching blind, deaf, and dumb people.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.