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the following manner:—‘Are Mabel and Trixey coming to-day 2' he asked. “I’m sure I don't know. Who are Mabel and Trixey P’ Thereat he took up a strong and confident attitude, and with a tone which at once justified himself and refuted me, he said: ‘They ARE Mabel and Trixey; that’s their NAMEs l'—the last clause a perfect bar of remonstrative music; as much as to say, ‘There's nothing to be said after that l’ A boy of five years old was asked, “Do you know where your cousin Johnnie is at school?’ ‘N& ! I don't know; where is he?’ ‘At Honiton.’ ‘At Hon-t-iton Isn't that a funny place P I call it!' Here it will be observed the place is judged of by the sound of its name; there is no distinction between the name and the thing. The following most significant record of native talk in the Aru Islands is from The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Russell Wallace (1869):— Two or three of them got round me, and begged me for the twentieth time to tell them the name of my country. Then, as they could not pronounce it satisfactorily, they insisted that I was deceiving them, and that it was a name of my own invention. One funny old man, who bore a ludicrous resemblance to a friend of mine at home, was almost indignant. ‘Unglung!” said he, “who ever heard of such a name?—anglang, angerlang—that can't be the name of your country; you are playing with us.” Then he tried to give a convincing illustration. ‘My country is Wanumbai–anybody can say Wanumbai. I'm an orang-Wanumbai; but N-glung who ever heard of such a name? Do tell us the real name of your country, and when you are gone we shall know how to talk about you.’ To this luminous argument and remonstrance I could oppose nothing but assertion, and the whole party
remained firmly convinced that I was for some reason or other deceiving them.—ch. xxxi.
All these are instances of the inability of man, in the earlier stages of his career, to assume the mastery over language. His mind is enthralled by it, and is led away after all its suggestions. We are told by Professor Jowett that the Greek philosopher, “the contemporary of Plato and Socrates, was incapable of resisting the power of any analogy which occurred to him . . . . and he was helpless against the influence of any word which had an equivocal or double sense ".’
It may be imagined that we, in our advanced condition of modern civilisation, are now completely masters over our language, but an investigation of the subject might produce an unexpected verdict. Philology is one of the most instrumental of studies for investing man with the full prerogative over his speech, for its highest office is to enable him to comprehend the relation of his words to the action of his mind, and thus to render the mind superior to verbal illusions.
660 d. Those who think that the sounds of nature first suggested language to man, hold a theory of language which may be compared to that theory of music by which music is derived from the cataract in the mountains, the wind in the trees, or the sound of the ocean on the shore. It appears to me that there is nothing in inward or outward experience to justify such a theory. As there are sounds in nature that may give an occasional suggestion to the musician, but none that can be acknowledged either as his model to work by or as the original source of his art, so it is with speech. Music and language alike must have come from within, from the greatest depths of our nature.
Man's conscious work upon language in fitting it to express his mind, is the least part of the matter. The greater part is worked out unconsciously. And long eras pass after the perfecting of its processes, before intellectual man awakes to perceive what he himself has done. This only proves from what a depth within his own nature this power of speech is evolved; only proves what a mystery man is to himself: and it casts a doubt over the prospect of our ever tracing a philologic path up to those springs which fancy calls the Origin of Language. For me the poet speaks most appropriately on this theme, because he speaks most vaguely, most wonderingly, and most inquiringly:— Ye wandering Utterances, has earth no scheme, No scale of moral music, to unite Powers that survive but in the faintest dream Of memory?—O that ye might stoop to bear Chains, such precious chains of sight As laboured minstrelsies through ages wear !
* The Dialogues of Plato, vol. ii. p. 505.
O for a balance fit the truth to tell
To make a path from the visible, ponderable, and corporeal, up to that which is invisible, imponderable, and spiritual, with no other building-material than vocal sound to erect a bridge from matter to mind,-tempering it in the finest filtered harmonies that can be appreciated by the sentient, emotional, and intellectual nature of man;–this seems to be the task and function of human speech.
Of its origin we can only say, it is of the same root with that poetic faculty whereby man makes nature echo his sentiments; it is correlated to the invention of music, whereby dead things are made to discourse of human emotions; it is a peculiar property of that nature whose other chief and proper attributes are the power of Love, and the capacity for the knowledge of GoD.
[Words of the central English vocabulary are printed in the ordinary
aboard, 190, 606 b.
accident, 32, 75.
act and deed, 77.
-acy, 329, 35o.
adventure, 75, I55,344.
alas, 75, 20I.