Over the years, reading aloud for me has become more than just a habit. It has become a need, and growing into a necessity. What lies at the core of this experience, however, is not the movement of the tongue. It is sound that needs to be heard, the actual utterance of whatever is seen in the form of words on paper.
Certainly, I do not always produce the sound to reach my ears while reading. I do like quite reading at times. But even then, I can feel some inner tongue speaking and some inner ears listening. The sound is still there, inseparably attached to the sight of words on paper. Reflecting on this experience brings about some interesting explanations.
For example, the fact that language is essentially spoken can account for the inevitable presence of sound with language. Any form of writing, after all, is language and hence must be spoken, manifestly or somewhere deep inside. Some philosophical works see humans as essentially a “listening being”. According to their classification of a child’s developmental course, the infant has inherent hearing—in the first developmental phase, the infant is all ears, to say. The infant is highly receptive to sound.
But with time and the child’s growth, this receptivity decreases as the faculty of sight takes the lead and other senses come into play. The mold of the listening self however remains and can be made functional via practice. Reading aloud seems one such practice that fulfills the inherent need to listen.
The question that results naturally from this consideration takes from as: is reading or using any form of language possible without sound?
My answer to this is in negative. Sound, even a silent one, is always there, serving our listening self. That is why those who are unable to hear at birth (born deaf) also fail to speak. What their reading experience is like is something I know little about. It does, however make me feel something a listening self can relate to: they too have a listening self, one significantly different and tuned very unlike ours.
It needs to be discovered what sounds they hear, though I feel there are serious limitations on our means of carrying out such an inquiry