« EdellinenJatka »
principles, as the general foundation for a course. of reasoning
1. As far as possible the regions of mere conjecture will be avoided. To Lord Monboddo and the learned Dr. Wilkins may be left the finewrought theories, respecting the first name which an untutored savage would give to bread: or what a language might be made by a nation of philosophers, taking it from its elements. These are suppositions which can never be brought to the test of experiment. Neither will it be profitable to dwell on a useless inquiry whether language was the immediate gift of the Creator to man, or, like his other faculties, left to his own industry to improve. One thing, however, may be observed respecting an opinion which has been sustained with unnecessary zeal. If at the creation any portion of language was directly communicated to man by his Maker, it must have been such a language as was suited to his then condition, and consequently very different from the speech of a numerous society, with all its complex regulations.
12. In perusing the most elaborate works on language, we are some times struck with what may be considered a waste of learning, employed with very little of practical good sense.
Volumes are filled with disquisitions which are of no importance, or which can lead to no beneficial result. Though we may say with Chancellor Bacon, that "knowledge is power," and add, that its general increase is the advancement of our nature, yet there are instances in which it is best for men to content themselves with that share of information which they can easily acquire. In the facetious question, whether the little children in the ancient city of Athens cried
when they were whipped, it seems better to admit the fact from the inferences of common sense, and the ordinary principles of human nature, than to make a troublesome search for proofs in antiquated books,
13. Persons of requisite intelligence can hardly fail to perceive how much the labor of study is simplified by ascertaining the true elements of each subject, and the just principles of their combination. With this suitable preparation, the whole way 'becomes pleasant; and the want of this has led to much confusion in treatises on grammar.
14. Explanations will be made with special reference to the English language. As far as possible awkward pretensions to learning will be avoided; and where allusions are occasionally made to the tongues of other nations, it will be for the sake of supplying facts, and of illustrating rules by comparison; for though we may not fully agree with the Emperor Charles V., that “As* many languages as a man understands, so many times he is a man;" yet there is much of truth in the observation of Ascham, “Even as a hawke fleeth not hie with one wing, even so a man reacheth not to excellency with one tongue.” This remark applies particularly to those philosophic principles of language, the proper understanding of which depends on a comprehensive view of human speech, in its general nature, and its comparative merits and defects.
15. Language, in the nature of its expression, has a three-fold relation to man: the sensations of
* Autant de langues que l'homme sait parler autant de fois il est homme.. Charles V. as quoted by Brantam.
the body, the affections of the heart, and the operations of the understanding; in other words, there are these three kinds of excitement, action, or instrumentality, by which ideas are interchanged between one percipient being and an other.
16. The bodily sensations are manifested, perhaps, in some degree, by all organized beings. The writhing or the groans of pain, the cries of hunger, and other evidences of feeling, are manifested in different modes and degrees by most animals. The young bird raising its open mouth for food, is the natural indication of corporeal want. Man has the various bodily sensations and their outward signs, in common with brutes, and has some expressions of sensation which they have not : of these are laughter and weeping. This class of signs is the lowest in order, least extensive in application, and most remote in its nature from conventional language.
17. It is doubtful whether any portion of what we understand as the affections of the heart, can properly be ascribed to inferior animals. The attachment of brutes for their young, is a wise ordination of Providence for the preservation of the species : but it extends no farther than is necessary for this specific purpose. The fidelity of a dog for his master, is the instinct or attribute of his nature ; and this obsequious trustiness is as readily subservient to the highwayman or pirate, as to the person of most upright conduct.
It is only in the human species, that the moral and social affections assume their expressive signs, and become an intelligible and powerful language. The indications of sentiment assume a variety of forms, as they appear in the countenance, attitudes,
and gestures. The dejection of sorrow, the smile of joy, the scowl of contempt, the frown of anger, are a universal language, read and understood alike by all nations. These natural signs may exist, independent of conventional language; but they generally concur with it, and add greatly to its force. These natural signs of mental feeling. are capable of being refined and extended, to a considerable degree, as in the ancient pantomimes, and appear to be more or less practised by all nations. The open arms of friendship, the fist clenched in anger, and a multitude of others, are of this class.
18. An attentive investigation will show, that there is no way in which the individual mind can, within itself, to any extent, combine its ideas, but by the intervention of words. Every process of the reasoning powers, beyond the immediate perception of sensible objects, depends on the structure of speech, and in a great degree, according to the excellence of this chief instrument of all mental operations, will be the means of personal improvement, of the social transmission of thought, and the elevation of national character. From this, it may be laid down as a broad principle, that no individual can make great advances in intellectual improvement, beyond the bounds of a ready formed language, as the necessary means of his progress. . The ideas, therefore, as well as the vocabulary of the savage, are necessarily limited ; but his words being comparatively few, are often repeated, and become familiar by use. They are also generally expressive, for they have immediate relation to objects of sense ; and it is farther observable, that where vocal language is restricted. men have recourse to violent and significant gesticulations to remedy its defects.
slaves of a lunatic mythology; the degraded attendants on soothsayers and gladiators ? and why does Spain, at this age of the world, and after what Spain has been, choose to lie down at a tyrant's feet, and solicit the chains and tortures of a dun
Should this Essay, in its crude outline, be favorably received, a second volume will be printed, designed to exemplify the principles of figurative language, in connexion with logic and rhetoric; natural and moral philosophy; including a slight view of the appropriate influence of a national tongue, on public literature, sentiments, pursuits, and char