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from the Latin ling na, the tongue, a name very commonly applied to speech, because the tongue, from its relative bulk, its flexibility, and the greater power of the voluntary muscles over it, is the most conspicuous, if not the most important organ concerned in the production of articulate sounds. The Anglo-Saxons had several words for language, as gereord, gepeode, lyden, reord, spell, spæc, spræc, þeodisc, tunge. Some of these cannot be traced back to any more radical form; and we therefore cannot positively say, as we can of the corresponding words in most other tongues, that they are of a figurative character. Lyden is recognizable in our modern English adjective loud, and Chaucer, and other early writers, use leden for language; spæc, in speech; tunge, in tongue; and spell still subsists in the noun spell, a charm, the verb to spell, and as the last member of gospel.*
* It is not clear whether the first syllable of this word is the name of the divinity, God, or the adjective gód, good. Bosworth (under God) and many other etymologists, adopt the former supposition; and this view is supported by the analogy of the Icelandic, which has guðspjáll, God's word. On the other hand god-spell, as a compound of the adjective gód and spell would be the exact etymological equivalent of the Greek évayyéalov, and the author of the Ormulum, who lived at a period when Anglo-Saxon was not yet forgotten, evidently adopts this derivation.
Goddspell onn Ennglissh nemmnedd iss
Ormulum, Preface, 157. And again,
Off all biss god uss brinngep word
Ormulum, Preface, 175.
& beode per godes godd-spel; and preach there God's gospel, a phrase not likely to be employed if gospel had been understood to mean, of itself, God's word. See Appendix, 2.
The word language, in its most limited applicatiou, is restricted to human articulate speech; but in its metaphorical use, it embraces every mode of communication by which facts can be made known, sentiments or passions expressed, or emotions excited. We speak not only of the audible language of words, the visible language of written alphabetic characters, or other conventional symbols, whether arbitrary or imitative, the dumb and indefinable language of manual signs, of facial expression and of gesture, but of the language of brute beast and bird ; and we apply the same designation to the promptings of the silent inspiration, and the lessons of the intelligible providence, of the Deity, as well as to the voice of the many-tongued operations of inanimate nature. Language, therefore, in its broadest sense, addresses itself to the human soul both by direct intuition, and through all the material entrances of knowledge. Every organ may be its vehicle, every sense its recipient, and every form of existence a speaker.
Many men pass through life without pausing to inquire whether the power of speech, of which they make hourly usage, is a faculty or an art—a gift of the Creator, or a painfully-acquired accomplishment-a natural and universal possession, or a human invention for carrying on the intercommunication essential to social life.* We may answer this
A similar question has been raised with regard to the cries of animals, which, for certain purposes at least, perform the office of speech. About the beginning of this century, Daines Barrington, a member of the Royal Society, tried a series of experiments to determine how far the notes of birds were spontaneous and uniform, and how far dependent on instruction and imitation. The result, (which, however, has been questioned by later observers,) was that though there is much difference in flexibility, power, and compass of voice in birds of different species, yet, in general, the note of the bird is that which he is taught in the nest, and with more or less felicity of imitation, he adopts the
query, in a general way, by saying that the use of articulate language is a faculty inherent in man, though we cannot often detect any natural and necessary connection between a particular object and the vocal sound by which this or that people represents it. There can be little doubt that a colony of children, reared without hearing words uttered by those around them, would at length form for themselves a speech. What its character would be could only be determined by the method of Psammetichus, an experiment too cruel to be repeated by inquirers intelligent enough to be interested in the result. It is not improbable that a language of manụal signs would precede articulate words, and it may be presumed that these signs would closely resemble those so much used as a means of communication among savages, and which are, to a great extent, identical with what have been called the nat
song of his nurse, whether the maternal bird or a stranger. To what extent the notes of birds, of beasts, of insects, and of fish, (for, in spite of the proverb, all fishes are not dumb,) are significant, it is quite out of our power to deter. mine. Coleridge, tenaciously as he adheres to the essential distinction in kind between the faculties of the brute and the man, admits that the dog may have an analogon of words. (Aids, Aph. ix.)
All will agree in denying to the lower animals the possession of language as a means of intellectual discourse ; but even this conclusion must rest upon stronger grounds than the testimony of the ear. Sounds, which to our obtuse organs appear identical, may be infinitely diversified to the acuter senses of these inferior creatures, and there is abundant evidence that they do in many instances communicate with each other by means, and in a degree, wholly inappreciable by us. When a whale is struck, the whole shoal, though widely dispersed, are instantly made aware of the presence of an enemy; and when the gravedigger beetle finds the carcass of a mole, he hastens to communicate the discovery to his fellows, and soon returns with his four confederates. (Conscience, Boek der Natuer vi.) The distinction we habitually make between articulate and inarticulate sounds, though sufficiently warranted as applied to human utterance, may be unfounded with reference to voices addressed to or. ganizations less gross; and a wider acquaintance with human language often teaches us that what to the ear is, at first, a confused and inexpressive muttering, becomes, by some familiarity, an intelligible succession of significant sounds.
ural signs of the deaf-and-dumb. If you bring together two uneducated but intelligent deaf
mutes from different countries, they will at once comprehend most of each other's signs, and converse with freedom, while their respective speaking countrymen would be wholly unable to communicate at all. And it is often observed at deaf-and-dumb asylums, when visited by natives of Polynesia, or American Indians, that the pupils and the strangers very readily understand each other, nature suggesting the same symbols to both. Thus, the savage and the deaf-mute alike express the notion of parity in general, and especially the fraternal relation, by joining and extending the two fore-fingers. The allobserving Shakespeare must have remembered this, when he made Fluellen say, “As like as my fingers is to my fingers.” * In this instance, as also when the savage and the deaf
express the speaking of truth by passing the extended index directly forwards from the lips, and the utterance of falsehood by carrying it crookedly sidewise, there seems to be some natural analogy between the gesture and the thought. So the coincidence, by which they agree in moving the hand with a rapid circular or spiral motion over the top of the head to indicate a fool, though less familiar, is equally explicable; but there are signs common to the savage and the deafmute, or at least mutually intelligible to them, which are apparently arbitrary, and without any discoverable relation to the thing signified.
Trained, as we are, to a grave and unimpassioned manner, it is difficult for us to realize that the movements and gestures with which Italian vivacity accompanies its social intercourse, are all really significant. But, though in the cultivated circles of Italy, and other countries of Southern Europe, manual signs are less resorted to, yet telegraphic communications by hands, face, feet, the whole person, in short, are everywhere kept up, as qualifications of animated oral discourse. A foreigner, therefore, who understands no language but that addressed to the ear, loses much of the point of the lively conversation around him. Among the lower classes in the Mediterranean countries, the use of signs, with or without words, is very general. If you ask an Italian servant, who has returned empty-handed from the Post-Office, whether he has letters for you, he will reply by moving his uplifted fore-finger slowly backwards and forwards before his nose ; while a Greek, under similar circumstances, would throw back the head, elongate the face, roll up the eyes, and give a cluck with the tongue, not unlike the note of a setting hen. You see the coachmen, servants, and otbers of the lower classes in Italy, constantly communicating by signs, sometimes, indeed, throwing in a word, but often expressing a whole sentence in a silent gesture; and in conversation, especially on subjects where caution is necessary, a speaker will often stop in the middle of a period, and finish his remarks in dumb pantomime. Italian scholars have shown that the sign-language of modern, is very closely analogous to that of ancient Italy, to which the classical writers often allude, and its origin dates back very far into the night of time. In an artistic point of view, a knowledge of these signs is of considerable interest, for it serves to interpret much of the action in the pictorial compositions of Italian masters which would be otherwise hardly intelligible.* Be
* I remember that when I told a Turcoman, in reply to a question whether I was an Englishman, that I was an American, he expressed his notion of the identity of the two peoples by the same sign. See App. 3.