Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 1879)
THE OKIGIN OP LANGUAGE.
expressing the character of the things
themselves. Man has been supposed to
bo so adjusted to nature that phenomena
mirror themselves upon his soul; his
conceptions are the reflected realities and
of course exactly correspond to them.
Hansen and Mullcr call words phonetic
types. Nature echoes through the soul
The objections to this theory show that
it has no solid basis in science. It is a
mere assumption, of which there is no
satisfactory proof, that there is any such
nice adaptation of the soul and the body
to nature, that the soul gives out the
echoes of nature. There is an assumed
physical condition open to inspection,
but the inspection does not sustain the
hypothesis. Whether "an infant crying
in the night" may be "un infant crying
for the light" or crying for the lactary it
would certainly be diilicult for the most
acute philologists to distinguish.
Again, if words are the echoes of things,
and the soul rings in answer to percep
tions and sensations, there should be but
one language for mankind. Henau per
ccivs this dillloulty and endeavors to get
over it by saying that it is owing to dif.
ference of organization, of climate and
outward circumstances, that tiie same
thought or emotion produces dill'ercnt
echoes in different races. JJut how is it
that tribes, living in (lie same climate and
having the same organic structure, speak
languages unintelligible to each other?
Fnrther.this theory assumes a condition
of things once, but now no longer existing,
and of whoso existence we have no proof.
It admits that this sensibility in the soul
of primitive man is now lost. Now, at
this point, the theory breaks down. It is
agreed by scientific thinkers that, if we
would explain occurrences by natural
causes, it must bo by causes now opera
ting; and we must not assume that the
world is dill'erently governed from what
it was at some former time. This is to
introduce miracle. The theory confesses
that it cannot explain the origin of speccli
by any causes that science can recognize,
and while professing to deny the miracu
lous, in this it is really driven to take re.
On this, then, and on other grounds, the
ding-dong theory must bo regarded mere,
ly as an ingenious speculation.
The bow-wow theory stands in sharp
contrast to the one wo have just consider,
ed. It is maintained with great ability by
Prof. Whitney and supported by Farrar.
Farrar, however, seeks to bring the two
theories into harmony. Wedgowood, too,
in his acute and scholarly contribution to
tho subject defends this hypothesis. The
theory may bo thus brielly stated. Tho
earliest names of objects and actions wore
produced bv the imitation of natural
sounds, slyled onomatapcoia. A dog, for
instance, from its bark was named a bow
wow, the cuckoo, from its notes, the move
ments of water, rippling, plashing, etc.
Again, the interjections we use, tho ohs
am', alia, the poohs and pshaws contri
bute other elements. In ouomatapcoias
and interjections arc to be found the be
ginnings of speech.
This theory has the advantage on the
Bide of natural phenomena and of logic.
Words, it is said, are now made in this
way, and the method is a practicable one
for communication between those ignor
ant of each others language. An English,
man, for example, in a Chinese eating
house points to a savory disli and says to
tho waiter "quack-quack ?" with a signifi
cant shake of tho head, tho waiter replies
" bow wow."
Unlike tho former theory, this denies
that speech is unconscious and instinc
tive. Tho necessity for communication
was the impulse to speech. Language
was a conscious contrivance and evolved
by slow degrees. There may havo been,
and probably was, a period of mutism pre
ceding articulate speech.
This theory, it is urged, accounts ration
ally for nearly all tho words in any Ian.
guago. Prof. Whitney inquires, why, as
nineteen twentieths of tho speech wo
Powered by Open ONI