« EdellinenJatka »
the medullary substance of the brain or not, there is no need of stopping to inquire. The position assumed as the foundation of the present treatise is, that whatever may be the origin of our ideas, there is no possibility of constructing elementary language, to transmit them from one person to an other, but by reference to sensible objects, consentiently known. This is a leading principle, to which our general train of reasoning will refer, and which, suitably attended to, will explain many of the seeming mysteries of speech.
8. Most of the philosophers who have attempted to explain the wonderful structure of the human intellect, have been evidently entangled by the false theories of language, and though some of them have been aware of the difficulty, they have not attempted to apply the remedy. Mr. Locke has many allusions to the absurd and mistaken systems of the professed writers on language ; but, when he attempts to particularize, shows that he is himself grossly misled by the errors of false teaching.
9. This truly great philosopher, adopting the doctrine which he had been taught, that a large portion of the English language lay beyond the reach of practical investigation, yet too clear-sighted to suppose numerous words used without meaning, introduces the following remarks. “ The'particles' are all marks of some action or intimation of the mind, and therefore, to understand them rightly, the several views, postures, stands, turns, limitations, and exceptions, and several other thoughts of the mind, for which we have either none, or very difficult names, are diligently to be studied.”
If Mr. Locke had even suspected, what is the "unequivocal fact, that these marks of actions or in
tinations of the mind, are names of sensible objects, or of obvious actions, with direct reference to things in the material world, capable of being traced to their origin, and clearly defined as nouns and verbs, his comprehensive intellect would hardly have been satisfied with the metaphysical approximation to which his views were so mistakingly confined. A deeper and broader knowledge of comparative etymology, would have led him, instead of studying the meanings of words in the unseen stands, limitations, and exceptions of the mind, to seek them in the real views, postures, and turns, of the early framers of speech.
10. Lord Bacon, speaking of the advancement of learning, says—" And lastly, let us consider the false appearances that are imposed upon us, by words, which are framed and applied according to the conceit and capacities of the vulgar sort: and although we think we govern our words, and prescribe it well-loquendum ut vulgus, sentiendum ut sapientes ;* yet certain it is, that words, as a Tartar's bow, do shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment. So as it is alınost necessary in all controversies and disputations, to imitate the wisdom of the mathematicians, in setting down in the very beginning, the definitions of our words and terms, that others may know how we accept and understand them, and whether they concur with us
For it cometh to pass, that we are sure to end there where we ought to have begun, which is in questions and differences about words.”
Profiting therefore by the suggestions of so able a counsellor, we shall lay down a few elementary
* Speaking as the vulgar, thinking as the wise.
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 bis 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,