صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Mr. Gottschalk's rendition of a piece of music; the Black Swan is concertizing in the western States; the vessel leaked 80 many strokes an hour; an emergent meeting of a society-. apparently in the sense of a meeting to consider an emer. gency; such a man ought to be spotted by his associates; old fogy, which by the way is an old English word; such a handsomely-put-on man as Mr. Dickens; and Kossuth's phrase, the solidarity of the peoples. Some of these expressions have little claim to be considered English, and they belong to the class of words which “come like shadows, so depart,” but several of them long have been, and others will be, permanent members of the colloquial, if not of the literary fraternity of the language. Photoglyphic and telegram are too recent in origin to be yet entitled to the rights of citizenship, but whatever may become of the former, telegram will maintain its place, for reasons of obvious convenience; and in spite of the objections of some Hellenists against it as an anomalous formation, the English ear is too familiar with Greek compounds of the same elements to find this word repugnant to our own principles of etymology.



In a historical sketch of the genetic development of the parts of speech, we should naturally begin with the Interjection, both because it is the earliest of distinct human vocal sounds, and because it is a spontaneous voice prompted by nature, and not, like other words, learned by imitation, or taught by formal instruction. This is at least the character of the true interjection, though the want of a specific term, and the inconvenience which would result from a too copious and minute grammatical nomenclature, oblige us to include under the same appellation words, and even entire phrases, whose resemblance to that part of speech lies chiefly in being, like it, introduced into a period with which they are not syntactically connected.

Of the elements of discourse, there is no one which has received so little attention from grammarians as the part of speech in question. Few treatises on language devote more than a page or two to the subject, and many writers have denied to interjections the character of words altogether. I think that, with most grammarians, this is a prejudice arising from the fact, that these words seem to have no appropriate place in so artificial a system as that of the Latin grammar, from which we have derived inost of our ideas of the structure of language. They can neither be declined nor conjugated; they are incapable of degrees of comparison; they govern nothing, qualify nothing, connect nothing, and may be left out of the period altogether without affecting the syntactical propriety of its structure. In short, they cannot be parsed. They have no position in the rank and file of the legion, and therefore are at best supernumeraries, if not intruders. In a language so cemented and compacted together as the Latin, not by mortar or pins of independent material and formation, but by organic attachments, natural hooks and eyes, congenital with the words and of one substance with them, this objection to the recognition of constituents so incapable of assimilation is by no means without validity ; but in English, and in those other tongues where the relations between important words are determined by mere position or by the aid of distinct and insignificant particles, it strikes us much less forcibly. I shall endeavor to vindicate the elaim of these neglected articulations to rank as legitimate means of vocally expressing human passions, states, affections, and therefore to be called words, though of a rhetorical and dramatic, not of a logical or didactic character.

Considered as a purely natural and spontaneous emission of the voice, we might expect to find similar interjections in all human tongues, but their forms, even when they most resemble each other, are modified by the same obscure influences which diversify the action of the organs of speech in the production of like or analogous sounds among different nations, and consequently they are by no means identical in different languages. The alleged diversity in the cries of the infant, and in the true interjections, which two utterances, psychologically considered, belong to the same general class of expressive sounds, has been urged by some physiologists as a proof of a diversity of origin in the human race. But the argument loses something of its weight, when it is shown, as it may be, that in numerous other cases, words common to two or more demonstrably cognate nations, and identical in form and sound, so far as any written notation can express sound, are nevertheless differenced in their pronunciation by those nations as widely as the true interjections are by unrelated races. These distinctions are occasioned by two proximate causes; the one is the employment of different sets of muscles, by different peoples, for the production of the same or similar sounds, the other is the peculiar quality impressed upon articulate sounds by the intonation with which they are uttered.

These two classes of linguistic facts, the production namely of like or analogous sounds in different languages by the employment of different organs, or at least muscles, and the fixed character of national intonation in certain languages, have as yet been little investigated by philologists, but they are full of curious interest, and the study of them, however difficult, is essential to the construction of even a tolerably complete system of phonology. Nice distinctions between related sounds depend of course upon the mechanical means employed to produce them, and one reason why an adult so seldom succeeds in mastering the pronunciation of a foreign language, why he is at once recognized as a stranger by his articulation even of words which, according to grammars and dictionaries, are identical with syllables and words of his mother-tongue, is, that to pronounce them like a native, he must call into play muscles not employed, or employed in a

[ocr errors]

different way, in speaking his own language and which have become so rigid from disuse, that he cannot acquire the command of them, or, in other words, render them what are called voluntary muscles. Further, the organs of speech act and react upon each other; the frequent play of a given set of muscles modifies the action of neighboring or related muscles; there is, to use a word, which, if not now English, soon will be, a certain solidarity between them all, and organs accustomed to the deep gutturals of the Arabic, the hissing and lisping sounds of the English, or the nasals of the French and Portuguese, are with great difficulty trained to the pure articulation of languages like the Italian, in which such elements do not exist.

National peculiarities of intonation are still more subtle and obscure, and they are almost equally difficult to seize by the ear, and to reproduce by the lips and tongue. To us, whose intonations belong not to the individual word, but to the whole period, it is difficult to conceive of the tone with which a word is uttered, as a constant, essential, characteristic and expressive ingredient of the word itself. But in monosyllabic languages like the Chinese, where the number of words, differing in the vowel and consonantal elements of which they are composed, must necessarily be very small, other distinctions must be resorted to, and accordingly we find that in such languages a monosyllable, consisting perhaps of one vowel and one or two consonantal elements, and which admits of but one mode of spelling in alphabetic characters, may nevertheless have a great number of meanings, each indicated by a peculiarity of intonation not perhaps appreciable by foreign ears, but nevertheless readily recognizable by a native. These peculiarities are however by no means confined to languages so alien to our own, for they ex

« السابقةمتابعة »