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MAN, of all animals, only is possessed of speech. Mere sound is, indeed, the sign of what is pleasurable or painful, and it is, for that reason, common to most other animals: for, in this manner, do they signify their feelings to each other. But speech indicates what is expedient or hurtful, and, a natural consequence, what is just or unjust. It is, therefore, given to man: for a sense of good and evil is peculiar to man alone.
1. The most intelligent of the brute creation frequently astonish us by actions, which can proceed only from powers of intellect, similar to our own: the capacity of speech then, is the criterion of distinction between man, and the brute creation. Reason, the capital faculty and characteristic of man, would, without this extensive power of communication, have remained in inactivity, its energies unexcited, and its faculties torpid. When the influence of language upon intellect is fully and maturely considered, it will be found, that the most brilliant discoveries in philosophy and science, are derived from this source, If those, whose genius has dazzled the world with its splendour, had been deprived of the observations and the researches of others, they would not have risen above the level of the least cultivated, and most uninformed. Take from man the use of speech, and of visible signs, his intellectual faculties would indeed, be circumscribed within very narrow limits.
2. The human voice is air sent out from the lungs, and so agitated and modified in its passage through the windpipe and larynx, as to be distinctly audible. The windpipe is that tube, which, on touching the forepart of our throat externally, we feel hard and uneven; it conveys air into the lungs for the purpose of respiration and speech. It consists of cartilages, circular before, that they may resist external injury; but, flattish on the opposite side, that they may not hurt the esophagus, or gullet, which lies close behind, and is the tube which conveys food into the stomach. These cartilages are separated by fleshy membranes; by means of which, the windpipe may be shortened or lengthened, and when necessary, incurvated, without inconvenience. The upper part of the windpipe is called the larynx; it consists of four or five cartilages, that may be expanded or brought together, by the agency of muscles, which operate all at the same time.
3. In the middle of the larynx, there is a small aperture called the glottis, through which the breath and voice are conveyed, but which when we swallow, is covered by a lid, called the epiglottis: for if any part of our food get into the windpipe by this passage, it occasions coughing, till ít is thrown out again. The best authors have determined, that the human voice is produced by two semicircular membranes in the middle of the larynx, which form, by their separation, the aperture termed the glottis. The space between them is not more than the tenth part of an inch in width, through which the breath, transmitted from the lungs, passes with considerable velocity. It gives, in its passage, a brisk, vibratory motion to the membranous lips of the glottis, and thus forms the sound called voice; this is strengthened and mellowed by reverberation from the palate and other cavities in the mouth and nostrils; and as these are better or worse adapted for reverberation, the voice is more or less harmonions.
4. The origin of language is involved in much obscurity. We are informed by the sacred historian, that the rudiments of language were given to man by his Maker; for Adam named all creatures; we must not, however, imagine that this was a perfect system,-it was but the first step. It is natural to suppose, that God taught our first parents only such language as suited their present occasions,
leaving them to enlarge and improve it as their necessities required. Supposing a period to exist, when words were uninvented or unknown, men would have had no other method of communicating their feelings to others than by the cries of passion, accompanied by such gestures, as were expressive of emotion. These are the only signs which nature teaches, and they are intelligible to all. Were two men, ignorant of each other's language, to meet together, each would endeavour to express himself by gesticulation, by signs, or by short and sudden exclamations; which would be uttered in a strong and passionate manner. These, grammarians have denominated interjections, and they were undoubtedly the first elements of speech.
5. When more enlarged communication became requisite, and names began to be applied to objects, the nature of the object was assimilated as much as possible, to the sound of the name. To describe any thing harsh or boisterous, a harsh or boisterous sound was employed; names were never given in a manner purely arbitrary. In the Hebrew, the names of animals given by Adam, bear a striking analo. gy to the individuals they represent. In the infancy of language, nothing was more natural than to imitate by the sound of the voice, the noise produced by external objects; a number of words may be discovered, constructed upon this principle. When one sort of wind is said to whistle, and another to roar; when a serpent is said to hiss; a fly to buzz, and falling timber to crash; a stream to flow, and hail to rattle; the resemblance of the word to the thing signified, is plainly discernible. The native of Taleite, (usually but improperly written Otaheite,) gives to the gun the appellation of tick-tick-boo, evidently imitating the cocking and report of a firelock. The cuckow also derives its name from its note. These, and a host of instances in other languages, prove that words were, originally, imitative. As the multitude of terms, however, increased, and the vast field of learning was filled up, words, by a thousand fanciful and irregular methods of derivation and composition, deviated widely from the primitive character of their roots, and lost all resemblance to the objects which they were intended to represent. Words may be considered as symbols, not as imitations; as arbitrary or instituted, not natural, signs of ideas.