Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

thought or reason is as much, or more, due to speech as speech to it.

Mr. Romanes remarks, after Prof. Max Müller, that the list of Sanskrit roots is composed exclusively of verbs. This is just what we should expect. For that of which all men are most immediately, constantly, and unreflectingly conscious, is their own activity or passivity.* We do not refer to feelings related to such states, but to direct, intellectual cognizance of them. This we think a noteworthy fact, however far these Sanskrit roots may be from being really primitive. Whatever may be their true date, they are, at any rate, the oldest we can, as yet, get at in language, and it is fair in the first instance to presume that the sort of words which are primitive in one or two languages are the sort of words which are primitive in all languages.

Mr. Romanes says, “Words which were expressive of actions, would have stood a better chance of surviving as roots . . . because . . . more frequently employed, and because many of them must have lent themselves more readily to metaphorical extension—especially under a system of animistic thought." "Metaphorical extension”! But what is metaphor, and what sort of being must have first employed it ?

Had not the intellect the power of apprehending through sense, and expressing by sensible signs, what is beyond sense, metaphor would not exist. Neither would it exist if thought arose from language and followed it, instead of the opposite. It is precisely because speech is too narrow for thought, that words * See “ On Truth,” pp. 16–27.

p. 275.

are far too few to convey the ideas of the mind, that metaphor exists. It is interesting also to note that figurative, metaphorical language is natural and especially abundant amongst various uncultured tribes. We may conceive of primitive man, as it were, bursting with mental conceptions for which he had not adequate expression; he would have been spontaneously impelled into metaphor to a much greater extent and more universally than are the most metaphorical races of our own day.

Nothing could well be more unwise than to take the plainest and most material meanings of primitive words as being necessarily their only meanings. Figure, or metaphor, has been occasioned by poverty and sterility of visible or audible signs, but their cause is the wealth and fruitfulness of thought. Many primitive terms had thus, no doubt, double meanings from the first, and the mental and moral applications of hard, sharp, low, and high, were probably double accordingly. To this question, however, we shall return.*

As to “ animistic thought,” Mr. Romanes quotes,f in a note, as follows: “It must be borne in mind that primitive man did not distinguish between phenomena and volitions, but included everything under the head of actions, not only the involuntary actions of human beings, such as breathing, but also the movements of inanimate things, the rising and setting of the sun, the wind, the flowing of water, and even such purely inanimate phenomena as fire, electricity, etc.; in short, all the changing attributes of things were conceived as * See below, pp. 271-273.

7 p. 275.

voluntary actions' (Sweet, Words, Logic, and Grammar)."

But this implies no defect of intelligence on the part of primitive man, who probably was far wiser in this matter than are many moderns. In ultimate analysis, all the phenomena of nature are to be recognized as really voluntary, being the result either of Divine volition or the permitted free-will of creatures. That the modes of expressing such a clear early intuition were defective, so as to have led to misinterpretation, is likely enough. To fancy, however, that primitive man, in attributing “volition " to fire, must have had a merely absurd meaning, such as ours would be were we to attribute volition to fire, may well be a mistaken fancy, seeing later differentiations of thought and expression had not yet taken place. In another note Mr. Romanes further says, * “ There is an immense body of purely philological evidence to show that verbs are really a much later product of linguistic growth than either nouns or pronouns.” But he, following Archdeacon Farrar, represents it as being “the correct view, that at first 'roots' stood for any and every part of speech, just as the monosyllabic expressions of children do." But if this was the case, such roots did practically include verbs. A very young child is conscious in acting and when being acted on, but predicates by monosyllables.

Concerning Prof. Max Müller's view that speech from its earliest origin must have been expressive of general ideas or concepts, Mr. Romanes remarks,t * p. 275.

+ p. 276.

“Now, of course, if any vestige of real evidence could be adduced to show that this must have been 'the case, most of the foregoing chapters of the present work would not have been written. For the whole object of these chapters has been to show, that on psychological grounds it is abundantly intelligible how the conceptual stage of ideation may have been gradually evolved from the receptual—the power of forming general, or truly conceptual ideas, from the power of forming particular and generic ideas. But if it could be shown — or even rendered in any degree presumable—that this distinctly human power of forming truly general ideas arose de novo with the first birth of articulate speech,* assuredly my whole analysis would be destroyed: the human mind would be shown to present a quality different in origin-and, therefore, in kind—from all the lower orders of intelligence : the law of continuity would be interrupted at the terminal phase: an impassable gulf would be fixed between the brute and the man."

This is most true, but of course Mr. Romanes regards it as being so much evidence on his side.

He tries to weaken Prof. Max Müller's position by affirming † that the 121 Sanskrit roots are not “the aboriginal elements of language as first spoken by man.” But there is not the least need for us to suppose they were. He is, however, unwarranted in making the assertion : “The 121 concepts themselves yield overwhelming evidence of belonging to a time

* We do not say this. What we affirm is that with the origin of the intellectual faculty, external expression by sound or gesture, or both, arose also.

+ p. 277.

immeasurably remote from that of any speechless progenitor of homo sapiens ; and in the enormous interval (whatever it may have been) many successive generations of words must certainly have flourished and died.” Why so ? we may ask. The assertion that such time must have been "immeasurably remote" is a purely gratuitous assertion; as also is the affirmation that many generations of words “must certainly have flourished and died.” Supposing that speechless men did exist before speaking ones, there is nothing to show they might not have performed all the actions referred to in the list, and if articulate speech began afterwards, then the 121 roots might have easily been evolved in the “immeasurable" period of (we should say) some twelve months at the most!

He incidentally mentions * that Archdeacon Farrar “ has observed that the whole conversational vocabulary of certain English labourers does not exceed a hundred words,” and adds, “Probably further observation would have shown that the great majority of these were employed without conceptual significance. Therefore, if these labourers had had to coin their own words, it is probable that, without exception, their language would have been destitute of any terms betokening more than a pre-conceptual order of ideation. Nevertheless, these men must have been capable, in however undeveloped a degree, of truly conceptual ideation : and this proves how unsafe it would be to argue from the absence of distinctively conceptual terms to the poverty of conceptual faculty among any people whose root-words

* p. 280.

« НазадПродовжити »