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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 charESSAY ON LANGUAGE.
1. LANGUAGE has been long considered as a subject of great interest, and has occupied the ablest writers among most civilized nations. Yet, after all the learning employed in its investigation, a slight research will show, that most of the contradictory systems which have been proposed are radically defective, and that much remains to be done. It is not expected that the expositions about to be offered will be free from defect. The intention is to present, in a new point of view, a branch of learning deeply interesting to the literary world, and particularly to the American States, under existing circumstances.
2. The plan of the present treatise differs, probably, from what has been attempted in any country. The ideas advanced will vary in several important particulars from the received doctrines of the schools, and the prejudices of inwrought sentiment. Novelty, however, is not sought for the sake of innovation. The leading object is simple philosophic truth.
3. Many obvious difficulties are presented in connexion with such an undertaking. If the principles advanced should be considered just, it may not be easy to make them entertaining, and reconcile them to the prejudices resulting from a different course of instruction. These difficulties, however, do not consist in the want of interest in the nature of language itself, but in the want of skill properly to explain it.
4. Among persons of more conceit than intelligence, it is not uncommon to hear the study of language represented as being, under almost any form, a dull and frivolous pursuit
. It may be so to those whose attention is confined to arbitrary rules, founded on the mere forms of words : but when we consider the faculty of speech as the distinguishing gift of the Creator to our race: as inwoven with all the wants, enjoyments, and improvements of man: as the index to the progress of society from barbarism to refinement, and of its downward course through luxury, imbecility, and crime to the depths of national degradation; contemplating the structure of speech as blended with the whole internal organization of society; with instruction, laws, religious sentiments, moral conduct, and babits of thought; when we consider it as the means of the Christian's present consolation and future hope, and still extend our views to the faculty of speech as the medium of social bliss for superior intelligences in an eternal world : what benighted man, rejecting the bounty of his Maker, shall come forward and say that the study of language is dull, or low, or unprofitable ?
5. Specch is to mind what action is to animal bodies. Its improvement is the improvement of
our intellectual nature, and a duty to God who
6. As a subject of philosophic contemplation, and as parts of physiological or anatomical science, the structure and use of the organs of speech are among the most wonderful of the Čreator's works. There is, perhaps, no exercise of mechanical skill among men equal to what is produced in the organs of speech in rapid utterance, The precision with which definite sounds are produced, in all their various complication, almost without the consciousness of effort; the nice distinctions, which are so infallibly preserved, by variations almost inconceivably minute, render the human articulation, to those capable of attending to its principles, an unceasing theme of admiration. Yet, the learned Dugald Stewart justly observes : “Many authors have spoken of the wonderful mechanism of speech; but none has hitherto attended to the far more wonderful mechanism which it puts into action, behind the scene." How wonderful indeed are those complex and subtile springs of thought, which every one feels himself to possess': whence originate the distinctive powers and glory of man; but which no acumen in philosophy has yet been able to explain. An attention to the intimate connexion between ideas and words will exhibit something of that wonderful influence which language exerts over our inmost sentiments and strongest associations.
7. The dispute of the mental philosophers whether ideas are innate, intuitive, or wholly acquired through the medium of the senses, has no necessary connexion with the structure of language. Whether the rational faculties have their seat in