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this just view. Languages have no reality beyond the propositions and complexes of propositions really written and pronounced by given peoples at definite periods; that is to say, they have no existence outside the works of art (whether little or great, oral or written, soon forgotten or long remembered, does not matter) in which they exist concretely. And what is the art of a given people but the whole of its artistic products? What is the character of an art (for example of Greek art or Provençal literature) but the whole physiognomy of those products? And how can such a question be answered, save by narrating in its particulars the history of the literature, that is to say, of the language in its actuality?
It may be thought that this argument, although possessing validity as against many of the usual classifications of languages, yet is without any as regards that queen of classifications, the historico-genealogical, that glory of comparative philology. And this it certainly is; but why? Precisely because that historico-genealogical - method is not a mere classification. He who writes history does not classify, and the philologists themselves have hastened to say that languages which can be arranged in historical series (those whose series have hitherto been traced) are not distinct and separate species but a single whole of facts in the various phases of its development.
Language has sometimes been regarded as a voluntary Impossibility or arbitrary act. But at others the impossibility of of a normative creating language artificially, by an act of will, has been clearly seen. Tu, Caesar, civitatem dare potes homini, verbo non potes" was once said to a Roman Emperor. And the æsthetic (and therefore theoretic as opposed to practical) nature of expression supplies the method of discovering the scientific error which lies in the conception of a (normative) Grammar, establishing the rules of correct speech. Good sense has always rebelled against this error. An example of such rebellion is the "So much the worse for grammar attributed to Monsieur de Voltaire. But the impossibility of a normative grammar is also recog
nized by those who teach it, when they confess that to write well cannot be learned by rules, that there are no rules without exceptions, and that the study of Grammar should be conducted practically, by reading and examples, which should form the literary taste. The scientific reason of this impossibility lies in the principle that we have demonstrated that a technique of the theoretical amounts to a contradiction in terms. And what could a (normative) grammar be, but precisely a technique of linguistic expression, that is to say of a theoretic fact?
The case in which Grammar is understood merely as organisms. an empirical discipline, that is to say, as a collection of schemes useful for learning languages, without any claim whatever to philosophic truth, is quite different. Even the abstractions of the parts of speech are in this case both admissible and useful. And we must tolerate as merely didascalic many books entitled "Treatises of Linguistic," where we generally find a little of everything, from the description of the vocal apparatus and of the artificial machines (phonographs) which can imitate it, to summaries of the most important results obtained by Indo-European, Semitic, Coptic, Chinese, or other philologies; from philosophical generalizations as to the origin or nature of language, to advice on format, calligraphy and the arrangement of notes relating to philological work. But this mass of notions, here administered in a fragmentary and incomplete manner about language in its essence, about language as expression, resolves itself into notions of Esthetic. Nothing exists outside Esthetic, which gives knowledge of the nature of language, and empirical Grammar, which is a pedagogic expedient, save the History of languages in their living reality, that is to say, the history of concrete literary productions, which is substantially identical with the History of literature.
The same error of taking the physical for the æsthetic, linguistic facts, from which the search for the elementary forms of the beautiful originates, is made by those who go in search
of elementary linguistic facts, decorating with that name the divisions of the longer series of physical sounds into shorter series. Syllables, vowels and consonants, and the series of syllables called words, all these elements of speech, which give no definite sense when taken alone, must be called not facts of language, but mere sounds, or rather sounds abstracted and classified physically.
Another error of the same sort is that of roots, to which the most distinguished philologists now accord but small value. Having confused physical with linguistic or expressive facts, and considering that the simple precedes the complex in the order of ideas, they necessarily ended by thinking that the smallest physical facts indicated the simplest linguistic facts. Hence the imaginary necessity that the most ancient primitive languages had a monosyllabic character, and that historical research must always lead to the discovery of monosyllabic roots. But (to follow up the imaginary hypothesis) the first expression that the first man conceived may have had not a phonetic but a mimetic physical reflex; may have been externalized not in a sound but in a gesture. And assuming that it was externalized in a sound, there is no reason to suppose that sound to have been monosyllabic rather than polysyllabic. Philologists readily blame their own ignorance and impotence, when they do not always succeed in reducing polysyllabism to monosyllabism, and rely upon the future to accomplish the reduction. But their faith is without foundation, and their blame of themselves is an act of humility arising from an erroneous presumption.
For the rest, the limits of syllables, as those of words, are altogether arbitrary, and distinguished somehow or other by empirical use. Primitive speech, or the speech of uneducated man, is a continuum, unaccompanied by any consciousness of divisions of the discourse into words or syllables, imaginary beings created by schools. No true law of Linguistic can be founded on such divisions. Proof of this is to be found in the confession of linguists,
Esthetic judgement and
the model language.
that there are no truly phonetic laws of the hiatus, of cacophony, of diæresis or synæresis, but merely laws of taste and convenience; that is to say, asthetic laws. And what are laws of words which are not at the same time laws of style?
Finally, the search for a model language, or for a method of reducing linguistic usage to unity, arises from the superstition of a rationalistic measure of the beautiful, from that concept which we have called false æsthetic absoluteness. In Italy we call this the question of the unity of the language.
Language is perpetual creation. What has been linguistically expressed is not repeated, save by reproduction of what has already been produced. The evernew impressions give rise to continuous changes of sound and meaning, that is, to ever-new expressions. To seek the model language, then, is to seek the immobility of motion. Everyone speaks and should speak according to the echoes which things arouse in his soul, that is, according to his impressions. It is not without reason that the most convinced supporter of any one of the solutions of the problem of the unity of language (whether by adopting a standard Italian approximating to Latin, or to fourteenth-century usage, or to the Florentine dialect) feels repugnance in applying his theory, when he is speaking to communicate his thoughts and to make himself understood. The reason is that he feels that in substituting the Latin, fourteenth-century Italian, or Florentine word for that of different origin, but which answers to his natural impressions, he would be falsifying the genuine form of truth. He would become a vain listener to himself instead of a speaker, a pedant in place of a serious man, an actor instead of a sincere person. To write according to a theory is not really to write: at the most, it is making literature.
The question of the unity of language is always reappearing, because, stated as it is, it is insoluble, being based upon a false conception of what language is. Language is not an arsenal of arms already made, and
it is not a vocabulary, a collection of abstractions, or a cemetery of corpses more or less well embalmed.
Our dismissal of the question of the model language, or of the unity of the language, may seem somewhat abrupt, and yet we would not wish to appear otherwise than respectful towards the long line of literary men who have debated this question in Italy for centuries. But those ardent debates were fundamentally concerned with debates of æstheticity, not of æsthetic science, of literature rather than of literary theory, of effective speaking and writing, not of linguistic science. Their error consisted in transforming the manifestation of a need into a scientific thesis, the desirability, for example, of easier mutual understanding among a people divided by dialects into the philosophic demand for a single, ideal language. Such a search was as absurd as that other search for a universal language, a language possessing the immobility of the concept and of abstraction. The social need for a better understanding of one another cannot be satisfied save by the spread of education becoming general, by the increase of communications, and by the interchange of thought among men.
These scattered observations must suffice to show that Conclusion. all the scientific problems of Linguistic are the same as those of Esthetic, and that the truths and errors of the one are the truths and errors of the other. and Esthetic appear to be two different sciences, this arises from the fact that people think of the former as grammar, or as a mixture between philosophy and grammar, that is, an arbitrary mnemonic schematism or a pedagogic medley, and not of a rational science and a pure philosophy of speaking. Grammar, or something not unconnected with grammar, also introduces into the mind the prejudice that the reality of language lies in isolated and combinable words, not in living discourse, in the expressive organisms, rationally indivisible.
Those linguists or philologists, philosophically endowed, who have penetrated deepest into the problems of language, find themselves (to employ a trite but