Зображення сторінки

just cause to feel disappointed if we passed by this sixteenth chapter entirely in silence. Therefore we will very briefly refer to what appear to us to be the most noteworthy portions of its contents.

Our author first notices the hypothesis of sundry. German philologists, to the effect that sounds (articulate and other) had first been emitted “in the way of instinctive cries, wholly destitute of any semiotic intention,” which cries, “ by repeated association," acquired, “as it were automatically, a semiotic value.” Now, as we pointed out in our introductory chapter, we are far from contesting that there never could have been creatures more man-like than any existing ape, which creatures gave forth articulate, instinctive cries, having a practical, but no intentional, significance. Such creatures, however, obviously were not men. Nevertheless, Mr. Romanes himself very rationally rejects * this German hypothesis as "ignoring the whole problem which stands to be solved—namely, the genesis of those powers of ideation which first put a soul of meaning into the previously insignificant sounds." The hypothesis is, we think, none the less distinctly worthy of note, as showing the absurd lengths to which theorists in difficulties will go.

Mr. Romanes, however, only rejects the theory because it assumes that men began to speak without having first acquired a sign-making faculty of gesture sign-making. But the very same fundamental ignoratio elenchi tells as much against him, as it does against the hypothesis he thus criticizes. For his view really “ignores

* p. 362.

the genesis of those powers of ideation which first put a soul of meaning into the” gesture signs, as much as the hypothesis he objects to ignores the process of putting meaning into vocal signs. Not, of course, that Mr. Romanes thinks so. He fancies that he finds “even in the lower animals, the signmaking faculty in no mean degree of development." But this we deny, for the reasons before stated.* Animals, of course, make instinctive movements, which are responded to by their fellows, and so might the “Urmenschen ” of these German theorists; but real signs such movements would not be, unless they were meant to be signs, and consciously depicted something a knowledge of which they were intended to convey.

The second hypothesis of the origin of language he adverts to, is the well-known one of Mr. Darwin-the spontaneous vocal imitation by a monkey of some other animal's voice as a sign to denote its presence. In this connection Mr. Romanes says,f speaking of the chimpanzee “ Sally" at the Zoological Gardens, “It does not seem to me difficult to imagine that such an animal should extend the vocal signs which it habitually employs in the expression of its emotions and the logic of its recepts, to an association with gesturesigns, so as to constitute sentence-words indicative of such simple and often-repeated ideas as the presence of danger, discovery of food, etc." There is, of course, not the least difficulty in imagining this ; but, as a fact, the animal does not do it, though, if it did do so, such a fact would not constitute any difficulty for * See above pp. 7, 65, 128.

† p. 368.

us, since we have already observed, here and elsewhere,* and Mr. Romanes himself has declared, that animals make practical signs of the kind, though not articulate ones, and the presence of such mere practical means to a practical end, gives no clue to the introduction of a “soul of meaninginto them. Mr. Darwin is quoted as asking, “May not some unusually wise apelike animal have imitated the growl of a beast of prey, and thus told his fellow-monkeys the nature of the expected danger ? ” and Prof. Whitney as saying of some hypothetical pithecoid men, “There is no difficulty in supposing them to have possessed forms of speech, more rudimentary and imperfect than ours.” We say again, of course not; there is no difficulty in supposing anything we want to suppose; but no intensity or reiteration of idle "suppositions" will afford a fragment of evidence in support of what is so "supposed.” It is always the same kind of fallacy which besets these speculators : sensitive phenomena are supposed to be divided and subdivided till they are imagined to be subdivided enough for the entrance of a grain of conceptual power into them. Such a grain having once been smuggled in unnoticed, there is then really no difficulty in seeing how it may augment till it attains the level of the intellect of a Scotus. But phenomena are not really to be explained by merely being subdivided or even pulverized. Of course Mr. Romanes himself thus slips in intellect, without saying so, although not with any personal disingenuousness, but with an entirely innocent unconsciousness of what he is doing.

* See “On Truth,” p. 352.

His own (the third) hypothesis is substantially like Darwin's, save that he imagines the spontaneous evolution not of significant sounds, but of significant gestures, which subsequently serve to guide and develop subsequently arising vocal sounds, articulate and inarticulate.

“Let us try to imagine,” he says,* a community of beings "considerably more intelligent than the existing anthropoid apes, although still considerably below the intellectual level of existing savages. It is certain [!] that in such a community natural signs of voice, gesture, and grimace, would be in vogue to a greater or less extent. As their numbers increased . . . such signs would [through natural selection] require to become more and more conventional, or acquire more and more the character of sentence-words.” Here, indeed, we have the intellect slipped in surreptitiously. " The first articulation," he subsequently tells us,t “probably consisted in nothing further than a semiotic breaking of vocal tones, in a manner resembling that which still occurs in the so-called 'chattering' of monkeys. . . . The great difference would be that ... it must have partaken less of the nature of cries, and more of the nature of names.” “More!” But things are " names” or “not-names”; there can be no "more" or “less” in the matter. It is by such gross philosophical mistakes and consequent verbal slovenliness that we have “intellect” unwarrantably introduced where it has no legitimate place. A great deal is said about the “clicks” of Hot* p. 371.

† p. 372.


tentots, which Prof. Sayce is quoted * as observing "still survive to show us how the utterances of speechless man could be made to embody and convey thought.” It could, of course, convey it fast enough if thought was there to be conveyed ; but no “clicking ” could ever originate and introduce it. The Hottentot word for the moon is said to be “clicks,” followed by the monosyllable "Khāp." But why is this not as truly conceptual a name for the moon as either Luna or Σελήνη ?

Mr. Romanes makes use of Time as a very potent magician to effect the transformations his hypothesis needs. Speaking of his hypothetical speechless-man, he says, † "I believe this most interesting creature probably lived for an inconceivably [!] long time before his faculty of articulate sign-making had developed sufficiently far to begin to starve out the more primitive and more natural systems; and I believe that even after this starving-out process did begin, another inconceivable [!] lapse of time must have been required for such progress to have eventually transformed Homo alalus into Homo sapiens.Again, he tells us $ that the epoch during which sentence - words prevailed was probably immense ; and, again, $ “The probability certainly is that immense [!] intervals of time would have been consumed in the passage through these various grades of mental evolution ;” and yet again, || " It was not until after æons of ages [!] had elapsed that any pronouns arose as specially indicative of the first person.” In fact, however, Time could do absolutely

* p. 374. § p. 386.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »