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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Oct. 1, 1879)
IiANOUAOK IT8 OHIOIN.
arc absolutely meaningless, hut to you and
to mo thoy testify of things Unit have
gono, of seething wuves of Arc, of terrible
energies, of luxurious vegetation. Wo
know that agencies have been at work
guided by unfaltering law, which have
shaped the universe.
With equal assurance can wo say that
human speech is a result of law. It is a
gradual evolution, a differentiating, a de
velopment similar to the development of
the embryo within the' egg, it is exempli
fied in all progress; in tho growth- of so
ciety, government, commerce, language.
Although we do not claim to penetrate
to tho ultimate starting point and fix tho
very first sounds uttered by human
tongue, we do claim that a monosyl
labic form of language must of necessity
have been the first; i. c., primitive words
must have consisted ol one vowel joined
to one or more consonants. A, u, i, seem
to have been the first vowels, from the var
ious combinations of wliich others arc de
rived; au equals o, ai c, etc. Perhaps
these were uttered in imitation of some
animal and it seems more than likely that
this, tho "bow wow" theory, as some con
temptuously call it, along with the oxcla.
mation or "pooh pooh" theory, furnish
tho key to the origin ot speech.
Let us understand this. The first of
these views implies, that man, having vo
cal organs, exercised them in imitating
sounds around him. lie; heard a cuckoo,
noticed its peculiar cry; his fellow-being
doing the same, the sound cuckoo became
at once the name ni the bird. Repeating
the sound to each other would recall the
picture, the impression, and thus their vo
cabulary would have a beginning.
Again take such words as buzz, whiz,
splash, cling, clang, gurgle, gargle, etc.
and you will at once see the close connec
tion between tho word and tho object.
Thoy coincide in a remarkable dogieo.
I have given these words lor illustra.
Hon. It is not said that wo can account
for all words by this method, but speech
evidently might originate, could originate
in tills manner. For Ihcro is no possible
ground to think that any name was given
to any object whatever, which did no1
describe or limit it in some way, just as
cuckoo describes the bird, just as moon,
mund, men, mouth, monat, mind, man
and a host of derivations, dato back to the
root ma meaning to measure.
Still this would only account for do
monstrativo roots or tho names of objects;
we must suppose that signs and emotions
oxprcsscd our verbs. This indeed seems
certain. It is past all reasonable ques
tion that in tho earliest communication
between human beings, gestures played a
considerable if not tho most important
part, and only gradually was this mode
supplanted by spoken signs.
Even now with tho highly developed
far-reaching resources in our vocabulary
wo employ gestures, with remarkable ef
fect; whole sentences are expressed by a
single gesture, and sometimes more clo
quenlly than with words because tho mean
ing would Hash upon tho mind instantan
eously. In addition to this, exclamations, such
as oh, ah, when pain is born or any simi
lar expression uttcrci under various cir
cumstances, would naturally supply some
roots; these exclamations, I may remark
in passing, are the same in all languages.
This, I confess, is tho most difficult part
of our inquiries, the one wo cannot abgo
lutely prove, hence analogical reasoning
must bo our guide and this is trustworthy.
The causes wliich change and mouify
language to-day existed always. This
tendency to diverge is plainly seen, its
only check is, the uocessity of mental un
dcrstanding, that alone prevents too great
Taking this for granted that either of
these theories would lead us to the start
ing point of human speech, tho way bo
comes less cumbrous, and direct evidence
in regard to the growth and differentia
tiou of language can bo supplied. This
growth wo will traco at another time; it
is sufficient now to bear in mind that tho
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