« السابقةمتابعة »
his high origin and noble powers, is probable; but that while he performs the numberless delicate movements in the act of articulating or jointing sounds, he should, at the same time, attach to each, an idea; combine them and express thoughts; multiply them, and trace out the most intricate processes
of reasoning; and all this, without actually possessing and exercising an intellect but little less than angelic, is not only improbable, but so far as we know, impossible. Artificial language then, implies the possession of mind, and the organ of the faculty of language is not the ear, but the brain, as the Larynx and vocal tube are its instruments. In this light, the far-famed parrot of Colonel O'Kelly, that sang fifty tunes, distinctly articulating every word, or the dog of Zeitz, that talked, or rather barked German, are readily disposed of. The curious tubes which were invented some years since, in Europe, which will produce certain articulate sounds, simply by blowing through them, may as properly be called language, as the parrot or the magpie that is taught, abandoning its own expressive tones, to be a mere machine for the amuse. ment of children.
It is frequently said, that there are no striking facts, no startling disclosures in language, like those which lure him on, who pursues the study of Chemistry, Philosophy or Astronomy. I know what view, they have taken of language, who entertain such sentiments; from my heart I commiserate such blindness. Just think of the millions that are numbered with the dead. Who can enumerate them? Think of the seven hundred and thirty-seven millions that now live, and form a conception, if you can, of all the thoughts and feelings, and emotions and passions, that have occupied and agitated each bosom, for thirty, fifty, nay a hundred years, and then remem. ber that the thirty-five sounds of which the English language
is composed, are sufficient to express them all! Is there not something wonderful in this? Is it not a noble subject for contemplation?
In the brief analysis of the elementary sounds, which I am now about to present, it is not necessary to inquire into the origin of written legible language; to determine whether it was communicated to Israel's leader by the Almighty Himself, or whether it is the result of the combined wisdom, of ages; whether the alphabetical characters were originally the delineations of visible objects, as they are now the signs of sounds, or whether they may be traced to the hieroglyphics of Egyptian Astrologers. It is not for us to pierce the gloom that shrouds the past, or to disturb the gathered dust of ages, to discover who first conceived the happy thought, that as sounds are the material of spoken language, so characters, the representatives of those sounds, should compose the elements of written language. Too long a period has elapsed since the decease of that illustrious unknown, to pronounce a eulogy upon him; but I will at least venture to remark, that while their first use (and a glorious one indeed,) should have been to commemorate his name, if the discoverer of the new world, and the inventor of letters were to contend for the wreath of immortality, the wise and good throughout all time, with a unanimous verdict, would award it to the latter, as the most important, the noblest discovery in the history of man. I make no apology for dwelling so long, upon the elements of language; we find them in the spelling book, we repeat (not to say learn) them, when children; we pass on, forget, and sometimes despise them. I would have you remember how wonderful is the power of these 26 characters, as the instru. ments of thought-how in the words of Dr. Good, "the language of the pen enjoys an adamantine existence, and will only perish amid the ruins of the globe-how before its mighty touch, time and space become annihilated—how it joins epoch to epoch, and pole to pole”-how, before it, the globe's broad zone dwindles to a line, and at the word of this Joshua, time itself stands still !
A perfect alphabet should not only contain a distinct char. acter for every elemental sound, but it should neither be en. cumbered with supernumeraries, nor confused with interchangable letters. By this test, the alphabet of our own language appears defective in every particular. The victim of caprice and change, for a long period of time, its present imperfection is not so much a matter of wonder, as it is, that we do not find it more barbarously mutilated and mangled. Whoever has been seized with a sudden desire to be immor. tal, has left his inglorious memento upon these innocent char. acters. Misguided learning has touched them with too care. less a hand, and whatever caprice has suggested or chance effected, has become indurated by time, legalized by scholars and irrepealable by use.
I never contemplate the grotesque assemblage, known as a nation under the name of English Alphabet, without thinking of an ill-accoutred and worse disciplined company of militia, answering to all sorts of fanciful and inappropriate names. Here half a dozen candidates for the same office, and there, one bearing, as he best can, the glorious responsibility of two or three. You call for the guttural K; K, C and Q* step promptly out. Order contemptuous S to the right of K; and X,f in its two-fold capacity jostles them both aside and stands sole representative of the pair. Z is called, and while this decrepit character advances, officious X1 hobbles up, answer. ing to the same name. But it will not do, and X is obliged to fall back upon its "reserved rights." In retaliation, Z calls in the aid of G, and G Z* complete the discomfiture of X, depriving it of a place, however humble, in the brotherhood. “C!” “Coming certainly,” says our hero, but ere he reaches the line, S hastens out on one side, and K presents itself on the other, and discomfited Ct almost doubting (and with good reason,) its own identity makes a speedy retreat.
* As in king, call, queen.
Tax or taks.
# Xerxes or Zerxes. * Exert or egzert.
Now for the musicians, for such in truth, are the glottis or vowel sounds in language. “Vocal I!" Out comes this im. portant personage, and coquettish Yt keeps company. You call for Y, and EŞ compressing itself as much as possible, reports presence. "O!” Here it is, and portly W just be. hind it, in the capacity of two Os. || You wish to test the claim of I to a place among vocals, and summon it again; but alas! no sooner is this done, than A, as heard in a-t, and ee, as heard in ee-l, intimately unite, and produce its sound, as in mind, maeend. It prefers a claim, from its sound as heard in ill, but ee shortens itself and ill is pronounced without the aid of I. U is strenuous for the sound as heard in pull, but oo shortened, readily fills its place. At this moment, forgotten J, as soft G, modestly asks our attention; saying that, though perhaps, it cannot boast as great antiquity as its companions, yet the want of age should not preclude the free ex. ercise of justice. But lo! Dand Y come forward, and hand in hand displace unfortunate J, and adye and dyustice are age and justice still. Again is our review prolonged by C and H, that complain bitterly of the hardness of their lot; C declares that as it has been ruthlessly deprived of a name and place by itself, it at least demands a hearing while it urges one more claim. Wheezing H whispers that though it is grievously afflicted with asthma,* yet with its companion C, it can nevertheless fill an important place in language. So by way of illustration, they stand side by side in the words teacher, leeches, and satchel, but, (O the vanity of mortal hopes !) T and Y decoy them from their place a moment, and treacherously step in, and who can distinguish between teacher and teatyer; between leeches and leetyes, and is not satyel, as much satchel as ever?
4 Ceil or sell ; cave orkave. Cri or cry. & Youth or eeouth. || Water or coater ; wave or ooave.
I By a clɔse connection of the elemental sounds of d and y, the truth of this will be evident to him who is blessed with a correct ear; as in jade, dyade.
Such are the scenes of confusion which an alphabetical muster and review day presents. Were I to marshal these characters, I hardly know by what rule of order it could be effected, but we will see. I have already stated that there are thirty-five elementary sounds in our language; here they are, exhibiting no very near relationship to the motley crew which we have been inspecting. Ringing sounds or vowels. The musicians of Language:
A-ll, A-rt, A-n, A-le,
Si-ng, L-0, M-a, N.0, R-oe.
B-ow, D-are, G-ive.
Half-ringing Aspirations : V-ile, Z-one, Ye, W-o, Th-in, A-Z-ure. Clangless Sounds. The mere clink of the vocal keys:
I-f, Ye-s, H-e, Wh-eat, Th-in, Pu-sh.
* Difficult respiration.