« IndietroContinua »
treated. He was never able to rid himself of a second prejudice connected with the first, namely that language exists as something objective outside the talking man, unattached and independent, and waking up when needed
But Humboldt opposes Humboldt : amongst the old Language as dross we detect the brilliant gleams of a wholly new Internal form. concept of language. Certainly his work is for this very reason not always free from contradictions and from a kind of hesitation and awkwardness which appear characteristically in his literary style and make it at times laboured and obscure. The new man in Humboldt criticizes the old man when he says, “ Languages must be considered not as dead products but as an act of production. . . . Language in its reality is something continually changing and passing away. Even its preservation in writing is incomplete, a kind of mummification : it is always necessary to render the living speech sensible. Language is not a work, ergon, but an activity, energeia. ... It is an eternally repeated effort of the spirit in order to make articulated tones capable of expressing thought.” Language is the act of speaking. “ True and proper language consists in the very act of producing it by means of connected utterance; that is the only thing that must be thought of as the starting-point or the truth in any inquiry which aims at penetrating into the living essence of language. Division into words and rules is a lifeless artifice of scientific analysis. Language is not a thing arising out of the need of external communication ; on the contrary, it springs from the wholly internal thirst for knowledge and the struggle to reach an intuition of things. ' From its earliest commencement it is entirely human, and extends without intention to all objects of sensory perception or internal elaboration. . . . Words gush spontaneously from the breast without constraint or intention: there is no nomad tribe in any desert without its songs. Taken as a zoological species, man is a singing animal which connects
1 Verschiedenheit, etc., pp. 54-56.
Language and art in Humboldt.
its thoughts with its utterances.” 1 The new man leads Humboldt to discover a fact hidden from the authors of logico-universal grammars : namely the internal form of language (innere Sprachform), which is neither logical concept nor physical sound, but the subjective view of things formed by man, the product of imagination and feeling, the individualization of the concept. Conjunction of the internal form of language with physical sound is the work of an internal synthesis ; "and here, more than anywhere else, language by its profound and mysterious operation recalls art. Sculptor and painter also unite the idea with matter, and their efforts are judged praiseworthy or not according as this union, this intimate interpenetration, is the work of true genius, or as the idea is something separate, painfully and laboriously imposed upon the matter by sheer force of brush or chisel.” 2
But Humboldt was content to regard the procedure of artist and speaker as comparable by analogy, without proceeding to identify them. On the one hand, he was too one-sided in his view of language as a means for the development of thought (logical thought); on the other, his own æsthetic ideas, always vague and not always true, prevented his perception of the identity. Of his two principal writings on Æsthetic, that on Beauty Masculine and Feminine (1795) seems to be wholly under the influence of Winckelmann, whose antithesis between beauty and expression is revived, and the opinion expressed that specific sexual characters diminish the beauty of the human body and that beauty asserts itself only by triumphing over differences of sex. His other work, which is inspired by Goethe's Hermann und Dorothee, defines art as “representation of nature by means of fancy; the representation being beautiful, just because it is the work of fancy," a metamorphosis of nature carried to a higher sphere. The poet reflects the pictures of language, itself a complex of abstractions.3 In his 1 Verschiedenheit, etc., pp. 25, 73-74, 79.
? Op. cit. pp. 105-118. 3 Zimmermann, G. d. A. pp. 533-544.
dissertation on Linguistic, Humboldt distinguishes poetry and prose, treating the two concepts philosophically, not by the empirical distinction between free and measured or periodic and metric language. “Poetry gives us reality in its sensible appearance, as it is felt internally and externally ; but is indifferent to the character which makes it real, and even deliberately ignores that character. It presents the sensuous appearance to fancy and, by this means, leads towards the contemplation of an artistically ideal whole. Prose, on the contrary, looks in reality for the roots which attach it to existence, the cords which bind her to it : hence it fastens fact to fact and concept to concept according to the methods of the intellect, and strives towards the objective union of them all in an idea.”i Poetry precedes prose : before producing prose, the spirit necessarily forms itself in poetry. But, beside these views, some of which are profoundly true, Humboldt looks on poets as perfecters of language, and on poetry as belonging only to certain exceptional moments, and makes us suspect that after all he never recognized clearly or maintained firmly that language is always poetry, and that prose (science) is a distinction not of æsthetic form but of content, that is, of logical form.
Humboldt's contradictions about the concept of H. Steinthal. language lost him his principal follower, Steinthal. The linguistic With the help of his master, Steinthal restated the pendent of the position that language belongs not to Logic but to Psy- logical. chology, and in 1855 waged a gallant war against the Hegelian Becker, author of The Organisms of Language, one of the last logical grammarians, who pledged himself to deduce the entire body of the Sanskrit languages from twelve cardinal concepts. Steinthal declares it is not true that one cannot think without words : the deaf-mute thinks in signs; the mathematician in formulæ. In
1 Verschiedenheit, etc., pp. 326-328.
• Grammatik, Logik und Psychologie, ihre Principien u. ihr Verhältn. 2. einand., Berlin, 1855.
some languages, as in Chinese, the visual element is as necessary to thought as the phonetic, if not more so.1 In this he may have overshot the mark, and failed to establish the autonomy of expression with regard to logical thought ; for his examples only confirm the fact that if we can think without words, we cannot think without expressions. But he successfully demonstrates that concept and word, logical judgement and proposition, are incommensurable. The proposition is not the judgement but the representation (Darstellung) of a judgement; and all propositions do not represent logical judgements. It is possible to express several judgements in a single proposition. The logical divisions of judgements (the relations of concepts) find no counterpart in the grammatical divisions of propositions. “A logical form of the proposition is just as much a contradiction as the angle of a circle or the circumference of a triangle.” He who talks, in so far as he talks, possesses not thoughts
but language.3 Identity of the Having thus freed language from all dependence on
of origin and the Logic, having repeatedly proclaimed the principle that nature of language produces its forms independently of Logic and language.
in the fullest autonomy,4 and having purified Humboldt's theory from the taint of the logical grammar of Port Royal, Steinthal seeks the origin of language, recognizing, with his master, that the question of its origin is identical with that of nature of language, its psychological genesis or rather the position it occupies in evolution of the spirit. “In the matter of language there is no difference between its original creation (Urschöpfung) and the creation which is daily repeated.” 5 Language belongs to the vast class of reflex movements; but to say that is to look at it from one side only and to omit its own essential peculiarity. Animals have reflex movements
1 Gramm., Log. u. Psych. pp. 153-158. 2 See above, pp. 28-30. 3 Gramm., Log. u. Psych. Pp. 183, 195. 4 Einleitung i. d. Psych. u. Sprachwissenschaft (2nd ed., Berlin, 1881),
6 Gramm., Log. u. Psych. p. 231.
and sensations like man; but in animals the senses are wide gates through which external nature rushes to the assault with such impetus as to overwhelm the mind and deprive it of all independence and freedom of move
In man, however, language can arise because man is resistance to nature, conqueror of his own body, freedom incarnate : "language is liberation : even to-day we feel our mind lightened and freed from a weight when we speak.” In the situation immediately preceding the production of speech man must be conceived as companying all his sensations and all the intuitions received by his mind with the most lively contortions of body, attitudes of mimicry, gestures, and above all tones, articulate tones.” What element of speech did he lack ? One only, but a most important one: the conscious conjunction of reflex bodily movements with the excitations of his mind. If sensuous consciousness is already consciousness, it lacks the consciousness of being conscious; if it is already intuition, it is not intuition of intuition ; what it lacks is in a word the internal form of speech. When that arises, there arises too its inseparable accompaniment, words. Man does not select sound : it is given him, and he takes it of necessity, instinctively, without intention or choice. This is not the place for detailed examination of the Steinthal's
mistaken ideas whole of Steinthal's theory and the various phases, not always progressive, through which he travelled, especially failure to
unite Linguisafter the beginning of his spiritual collaboration with tic and Lazarus, with whom he studied ethnopsychology (Völker- Æsthetic. psychologie), of which they both took Linguistic to be a part.2 But, while giving him full credit for bringing Humboldt's ideas into coherent order, and for clearly differentiating, as had never before been done, between linguistic activity and the activity of logical thought, it must be noted that Steinthal never recognized the identity
1 Op. cit. pp. 285, 292, 295-306.
2 Steinthal, Ursprung d. Sprache (4th ed. Berlin, 1888), pp. 120-124. M. Lazarus, Das Leben der Seele, 1855 (Berlin, 1876–1878), vol. ii. Zeitschrift f. Völkerpsych. u. Sprachwiss. from 1860 onwards, edited by Steinthal and Lazarus together.
on art : his