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EMOTIONAL AND IMITATIVE LANGUAGE.
Element of directly expressive Sound in Language-Test by independent correspondence in distinct languages-Constituent processes of Language-Gesture-Expression of feature, &c.—Emotional Tone-Articulate sounds, vowels determined by musical quality and pitch, consonants -Emphasis and Accent-Phrase-melody, Recitative-Sound-Words— Interjections-Calls to Animals-Emotional Cries-Sense-Words formed from Interjections-Affirmative and Negative particles, &c.
IN carrying on the enquiry into the development of culture, evidence of some weight is to be gained from an examination of Language. Comparing the grammars and dictionaries of races at various grades of civilization, it appears that, in the great art of speech, the educated man at this day substantially uses the method of the savage, only expanded and improved in the working out of details. It is true that the languages of the Tasmanian and the Chinese, of the Greenlander and the Greek, differ variously in structure; but this is a secondary difference, underlaid by a primary similarity in method, namely, the expression of ideas by articulate sounds habitually allotted to them. Now all languages are found on inspection to contain some articulate sounds of a directly natural and directly intelligible kind. These are sounds of interjectional or imitative character, which have their meaning not by inheritance from parents or adoption from foreigners, but by being taken up directly from the world of sound into the world of sense. Like pantomimic gestures, they are capable of conveying their meaning of themselves, without reference to the parti
cular language they are used in connexion with. From the observation of these, there have arisen speculations as to the origin of language, treating such expressive sounds as the fundamental constituents of language in general, and considering those of them which are still plainly recognizable as having remained more or less in their original state, long courses of adaptation and variation having produced from such the great mass of words in all languages, in which no connexion between idea and sound can any longer be certainly made out. Thus grew up doctrines of a 'natural' origin of language, which, dating from classic times, were developed in the eighteenth century into a system by that powerful thinker, the President Charles de Brosses, and in our own time have been expanded and solidified by a school of philologers, among whom Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood is the most prominent.1 These theories have no doubt been incautiously and fancifully worked. No wonder that students who found in nature real and direct sources of articulate speech, in interjectional sounds like ah! ugh! h'm! sh! and in imitative sounds like purr, whiz, tomtom, cuckoo, should have thought that the whole secret of language lay within their grasp, and that they had only to fit the keys thus found into one hole after another to open every lock. When a philosopher has a truth in his hands, he is apt to stretch it farther than it will bear. The magic umbrella must spread and spread till it becomes a tent wide enough to shelter the king's army. But it must be borne in mind that what criticism touches in these opinions is their exaggeration, not their reality. That interjections and imitative words are really taken up to some extent, be it small or large, into the very body and structure of language, no one denies. Such a denial, if anyone offered it, the advocates of the disputed theories might dispose of in the single phrase, that they would neither be pooh-poohed
1 C. de Brosses, 'Traité de la Formation Mécanique des Langues,' &c. (1st ed. 1765); Wedgwood, 'Origin of Language' (1866); 'Dic. of English Etymology' (1859, 2nd ed. 1872); Farrar, 'Chapters on Language' (1865).
nor hooted down. It may be shown within the limits of the most strict and sober argument, that the theory of the origin of language in natural and directly expressive sounds does account for a considerable fraction of the existing copia verborum, while it raises a presumption that, could we trace the history of words more fully, it would account for far more.
In here examining interjectional and imitative sounds with their derivative words, as well as certain other parts of language of a more or less cognate character, I purpose to bring forward as far as possible new evidence derived from the languages of savage and barbarous races. By so doing it becomes practicable to use a check which in great measure stops the main source of uncertainty and error in such enquiries, the habit of etymologizing words off-hand from expressive sounds, by the unaided and often flighty fancy of a philologer. By simply enlarging the survey of language, the province of the imagination is brought within narrower limits. If several languages, which cannot be classed as distinctly of the same family, unite in expressing some notion by a particular sound which may fairly claim to be interjectional or imitative, their combined authority will go far to prove the claim a just one. For if it be objected that such words may have passed into the different languages from a common source, of which the trace is for the most part lost, this may be answered by the question, Why is there not a proportionate agreement between the languages in question throughout the far larger mass of words which cannot pretend to be direct sound-words? If several languages have independently chosen like words to express like meanings, then we may reasonably suppose that we are not deluding ourselves in thinking such words highly appropriate to their purpose. They are words which answer the conditions of original language, conforming as they do to the saying of Thomas Aquinas, that the names of things ought to agree with their natures, nomina debent naturis rerum congruere.' Applied in such comparison, the lan
guages of the lower races contribute evidence of excellent quality to the problem. It will at the same time and by the same proofs appear, that savages possess in a high degree the faculty of uttering their minds directly in emotional tones and interjections, of going straight to nature to furnish themselves with imitative sounds, including reproductions of their own direct emotional utterances, as means of expression of ideas, and of introducing into their formal language words so produced. They have clearly thus far the means and power of producing language. In so far as the theories under consideration account for the original formation of language, they countenance the view that this formation took place among mankind in a savage state, and even, for anything appearing to the contrary, in a still lower stage of culture than has survived to our day.1
The first step in such investigation is to gain a clear idea of the various elements of which spoken language is made up. These may be enumerated as gesture, expression of feature, emotional tone, emphasis, force, speed, &c. of utterance, musical rhythm and intonation, and the formation of the vowels and consonants which are the skeleton of articulate speech.
In the common intercourse of men, speech is habitually accompanied by gesture, the hands, head, and body aiding and illustrating the spoken phrase. So far as we can judge, the visible gesture and the audible word have been thus used in combination since times of most remote antiquity
1 Among the principal savage and barbaric languages here used for evidence, are as follows:-Africa: Galla (Tutschek, Gr. and Dic.), Yoruba (Bowen, Gr. and Dic.), Zulu (Döhne, Dic.). Polynesia, &c. : Maori (Kendall, Vocab., Williams, Dic.), Tonga (Mariner, Vocab.), Fiji (Hazlewood, Dic.), Melanesia (Gabelentz, Melan. Spr.). Australia (Grey, Moore, Schürmann, Oldfield, Vocabs.). N. America: Pima, Yakama, Clallam, Lummi, Chinuk, Mohawk, Micmac (Smithson. Contr. vol. iii.), Chinook Jargon (Gibbs, Dic.), Quiché (Brasseur, Gr. and Dic.). S. America: Tupi (Diaz, Dic.), Carib (Rochefort, Vocab.), Quichua (Markham, Gr. and Dic.), Chilian (Febres, Dic.), Brazilian tribes (Martius, 'Glossaria linguarum Brasiliensium '). Many details in Pott, 'Doppelung,' &c.
in the history of our race. It seems, however, that in the daily intercourse of the lower races, gesture holds a much more important place than we are accustomed to see it fill, a position even encroaching on that which articulate speech holds among ourselves. Mr. Bonwick confirms by his experience Dr. Milligan's account of the Tasmanians as using signs to eke out the meaning of monosyllabic expressions, and to give force, precision, and character to vocal sounds.' Captain Wilson remarks on the use of gesticulation in modifying words in the Chinook Jargon. There is confirmation to Spix and Martius' description of low Brazilian tribes completing by signs the meaning of their scanty sentences, thus making the words 'wood-go' serve to say 'I will go into the wood,' by pointing the mouth like a snout in the direction meant. The Rev. J. L. Wilson, describing the Grebo language of West Africa, remarks that they have personal pronouns, but seldom use them in conversation, leaving it to gesture to determine whether a verb is to be taken in the first or second person; thus the words 'ni ne' will mean I do it,' or 'you do it,' according to the significant gestures of the speaker.1 Beside such instances, it will hereafter be noticed that the lower races, in counting, habitually use gesture-language for a purpose to which higher races apply word-language. To this prominent condition of gesture as a means of expression among rude tribes, and to the development of pantomime in public show and private intercourse among such peoples as the Neapolitans of our own day, the most extreme contrast may be found in England, where, whether for good or ill, suggestive pantomime is now reduced to so small a compass in social talk, and even in public oratory.
Changes of the bodily attitude, corresponding in their fine gradations with changes of the feelings, comprise condi
1 Bonwick, 'Daily Life of Tasmanians,' p. 140; Capt. Wilson, in Tr. Eth. Soc.,' vol. iv. p. 322, &c.; J. L. Wilson, in 'Journ. Amer. Oriental Soc.,' vol. i. 1849, No. 4; also Cranz., ‘Grönland,' p. 279 (cited below, p. 186). For other accounts, see Early Hist. of Mankind,' p. 77.