« НазадПродовжити »
REASON AND DIVERS TONGUES.
HAVING considered the infant mind, Mr. Romanes next turns to the very interesting study of divers tongues which various races of men speak or have spoken. He initiates his twelfth chapter very confidently. After asserting that he has refuted a position (our own) which he has entirely misunderstood, he adds * that the time has come when he “can afford to take a new point of departure. It is to Language that my opponents appeal: to Language they shall go.” But the language to which they appeal is not that mere verbal predication which Mr. Romanes assumes it to be, but the external expression, whether by articulate or inarticulate sounds or by gesture, of internal intellectual apprehension. It is the verbum mentale which is alone important.
Our author here makes an observation which is not a little surprising. He tells us that “the new science of Comparative Philology has revealed the important fact that, if on the one hand speech gives expression to ideas, on the other hand it receives impression from them.” A “new science” was hardly needed to make this
* p. 238.
known: a fact which the whole school of Mr. Romanes's opponents have ever taught, and which we have again and again insisted upon to ears and minds evidently somewhat slow of apprehension.
In commencing his exposition of doctrines of comparative philology, Mr. Romanes modestly disclaims any right to speak as an expert in that science. We desire to make even less claim to any special knowledge on the subject. The criticisms we shall make, however, do not require or depend upon any special knowledge of that kind. We all admit that speech changes and grows, and every assertion (not a repetition of already noted errors) made about philosophy by Mr. Romanes might be freely conceded without weakening our own position. Still we think it expedient to examine what follows, for although it is relatively unimportant, the matter it deals with is valuable as throwing some useful side-lights on the main question. This is especially the case with some statements of Mr. Romanes which we deem more or less interestingly erroneous.
He says, * “Let it be noted that we are in the presence of exactly the same distinction with regard to the origin of language, as we were at the beginning of this treatise with regard to the origin of man. For we then saw that while we have the most cogent historical evidence in proof of the principles of evolution having governed the progress of civilization, we have no such direct evidence of the descent of man from a brutal ancestry. And here also we find that, as long as the
* p. 242.
light of history is able to guide us, there can be no doubt that the principles of evolution have determined the gradual development of languages, in a manner strictly analogous to that in which they have determined the ever-increasing refinement and complexity of social organization. Now, in the latter case we saw that such direct evidence of evolution from lower to higher levels of culture, renders it well-nigh certain that the method must have extended backwards beyond the historical period; and hence, that such direct evidence of evolution uniformly pervading the historical period, in itself furnishes a strong prima facie presumption that this period was itself reached by means of a similarly gradual development of human faculty. And thus, also, it is in the case of language. If philology is able to prove the fact of evolution in all known languages as far back as the primitive roots out of which they have severally grown, the presumption becomes exceedingly strong that these earliest and simplest elements, like their later and more complex products, were the result of a natural growth.”
There is, of course, a parallelism between the course of human speech and human intellectual conditions generally, because the former is the explicit expression of the latter. But since, as Mr. Romanes most truly says, we have no evidence (beyond inferential evidence) as to the actual origin of man or of speech, it by no means follows either that they arose by evolution, or that their earliest condition was inferior to that of which we have the earliest indication. We have as much evidence of decay and retrogression as of progression,
and even Mr. Herbert Spencer considers that all existing savages are degraded beings. It is hardly less improbable that primitive man was like one of the more degraded existing savages, than that he was what we should call highly civilized.
We are convinced we have certain evidence that man differs from every brute by a difference of kind, and if his nature is essentially different, his origin must also have been different, and there is an à priori probability that the difference as to the mode of his origin must run parallel with the difference of his nature. It may be that the earliest men in whose minds spontaneously arose the intellectual conceptions evolved by the aspects of nature, had clearer intuitions as to the real nature of things, and of the relations between them, than had later men, whose minds had become burthened with a multitude of conflicting impressions and opinions. That such is the case seems probable when we compare the clear, simple, yet profound conceptions of the Greek intellect, as exemplified by Aristotle, with the relatively obscure, involved, yet unsatisfactory philosophic speculations of our own day.
Mr. Romanes describes,* in an interesting manner, the Isolating, Polysynthetic, Agglutinative, Inflectional, and Analytic forms of language, and puts before us views as to their relative antiquity and inter-relations. He adopts Dr. Hales's suggestion † that new languages may have independently arisen from children who were isolated having accidentally lost their parents, and he supports his view by the assertion that languages * p. 250.
ť p. 260.
are most numerous in those most favoured regionsCalifornia and Brazil —where life might be most easily maintained by children thus circumstanced. We note this view without adopting it, but without any wish to contend against it. The facts * that “neglected children in some of the Canadian and Indian villages, and in South Africa, who are left alone for days, can and do invent for themselves a sort of lingua franca, partially or wholly unintelligible to all except themselves," and that “deaf-mutes have an instinctive power to develop for themselves a language of signs” (as we have before seen), well accords with the fact that man has ever an innate faculty for the external expression of internal conceptions.
In his thirteenth chaper, on roots of language, he quotes the one hundred and twenty-one given by Prof. Max Müller from Sanskrit. As to these he says, “ Scarcely any of them present us with evidence of reflective thought, as distinguished from the naming of objects of sense-perception.” But they are, as he allows,f “concepts," always expressive of abstract or general ideas.
In a note $ he justly stigmatizes as "absurd” Prof. Max Müller's doctrine that “the formation of thought is the first and natural purpose of language, while its communication is accidental only.” He very properly adds, “Such a 'purpose' would imply 'thought' as already formed." This may be quoted against Mr. Romanes himself, where he represents || that