Hello! If you've come to this page looking for current Wellcome Collection information, please return to wellcomecollection.org where you can find our latest exhibitions, events, stories and more. 

Broken language


Audible speech allows us to communicate with the kind of nuances, emotions, stumblings and absolute failures that are not easily translated into the written word. To be without the possibility of achieving what might be called ‘normal’ oral communication can be an isolating experience, although this can vary according to the reasons for the lack of ‘voice.’ In the following recordings, we hear from a woman with jargon dysphasia who is unaware that anything she says isn't entirely comprehensible; a young boy struggling to regain his speech after a serious illness; a young man who can only emit words in sporadic fashion as he struggles to take a breath; a man born deaf who may never know how his own voice sounds and two babies whose cries allow for their medical conditions to be correctly diagnosed; as clearly as though they were using words.

Ruth Blue has curated these recordings from the Graves Medical Audiovisual Library, part of our Moving Image and Sound Collection. Find out more about the archive.

Jargon Dysphasia

In jargon dysphasia, what seem like incomprehensible sentences to the listener make perfect sense to the speaker.

Executive Aphasia

An eight-year old boy is recovering from severe aphasia following encephalitis.

Frog breathing

Frog breathing or glossopharyngeal breathing is a technique used by people who have lost the ability to breathe normally on their own.

Congenital deafness

This case shows a man born congenitally deaf, describing his education and career.

‘Cretin’ baby

The typical cry of a baby born with congenital hypothyroidism is low and hoarse.