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mind, and develop one's natural powers, but teach him a dialect, which is common to no other subject on earth, and he goes out with hampered faculties, and reason blind. Language is composed of far too many words, some of which have no determined meaning, while others are foreign, or barbarous.
The progress of the sciences, and through them, the triumph of truth, depends upon the improvement of the languages. When they shall be reduced to one common, simple, and correct language, this consummation will be effected. Meanwhile, an analytical method, strictly adhered to, in all our thoughts and intellectual exercises, will in part, conduct us to the truth we seek. Analogy will shed a clear light upon our pathway. The order of nature cannot well be reversed, and this will lead us from the origin of language, to the development of literature and science.
ORIGIN OF THE LANGUAGE.
When language has attained that perfection to which it arrives in the progress of society, the speculative mind, in comparing the first and the last stages of the progress, feels the same sort of amazement with a traveler, who after rising insensibly on the slope of a hill, comes to look down from a precipice, to the summit of which he believes he could not have ascended without supernatural aid.
DR. FERGUSON. As for myself, alarmed at these multiplying difficulties and convinced of the almost demonstrable impossibility of language having been formed and estahlished by means merely human, I leave to others the discussion of the problem, whether a society already formed, was more necessary for the institution of language, or a language already invented, for the establishment of society.
Rousseau. The same element conveys the same fundamental idea, through all languages, within the sphere of its acknowledge affinity ; from which probably no form of speech now spoken on the face of the globe is altogether excluded.
Hence we may infer that language was bestowed on Adam in the same manner as all his other faculties and knowledge, by supernatural power : or in other words was of divine origin..
The origin of language is a delicate question; and so evenly balanced are the evidences with regard to its human or divine institution, that it can never be settled beyond a doubt, and it has been truly said that there will be something left concerning it for the remotest posterity to speculate upon.
If it is indeed the invention of man, he needs no other evidence to sustain his superior rank and dignity in the scale of being. Although reason has ever been regarded, and is still to be looked upon, as the great characteristic that entitles him to his distinction, yet the possession of language, even by endowment, would secure to him all that he claims, to say nothing of the wonderful conception of inventing it. For after making due allowance for the zeal and enthusiasm of devotees in tracing analogies, in discovering beauties, and magnifying its astonishing powers, there is truth enough still to excite admiration, and to increase our wonder at every step, as we trace it back to its primitive elements, without supposing that from the foundation its structure, its nature, and design were conceived by the human mind.
The language of action, that is, signs, are sufficient for the early natural wants: the child has ideas long before it speaks, and when it does speak, it imitates sounds it has heard, without any regard to their meaning. But if there were no sounds to imitate, it is by no means clear that it would of its own accord utter them, and in process of time attach definite meanings to them.
From the literal and obvious interpretation of the Mosaic narrative, it is not necessary to suppose, as Mr. Webster says, that Adam was endowed with speech as soon as he was created, or at any particular moment of time: but it is more reasonable to suppose that his powers of speech were developed gradually, according to the laws of his constitution. If he associa
ted with a superior order of beings, why may he not have acquired the elements of speech from them by imitation ?
It does not clear the matter entirely to refer the origin of language directly to God. This disposition of it not only conflicts with the notions we delight to entertain of the dignity and intellectual capacity of man, but does not well comport with our conception of his Creator.
After all that we can conceive concerning the nature and wonderful capacity of language, when we come to look upon it as the immediate emanation from the Divine Mind, we instinctively demand a perfection and capacity which it does not possess.
We then look for those beautiful and certain laws, which He always institutes, regulating its internal structure, harmonizing all its parts, and adapting each part to the perfect execution of its great design: and we are incredulous till we recognize that impress which is inscribed upon all His works as in letters of light. While this internal evidence of a Divine origin is wanting, it must still be ascribed to man, and this ascription will be enough to elevate him near to an equality with the higher order of beings.
Language, like man, is of the earth, earthly: the latter, in his natural state, possesses but few principles that tend to elevate him above this world : so language does not contain a single word whose primitive signification does not refer directly to, or is not derived directly from, the earth. It is only by inference and construction, that they are made to look
beyond this world. Man is the center of the system of language, and the earth is the source of its ideas. The term soul is the Saxon sawl, wind or breath, and only denotes a quality, the most etherial of sensible objects. Mind is the Saxon gemind, denoting strength, and that not independent of, nor unallied to physical organization. And heaven is from heofen, the Saxon verb, to heave or set up. Man is the center of the system ; because he is the point from which language proceeded in its formation, and from which the Universe has been surveyed.
It is a beautiful theory, * to suppose that there is a single word in every language from which all other words are deduced; that the particular language contains one from which all are derived, or upon which their meaning depends; for instance, that the consonants contained in the term earth, enter into, by their various powers derived from combination, all other words of the English language, and that the various modifications that are made, are effected by, or relate to the changes of the earth. If such beautiful laws were impressed on language, and were certain, and could be traced through all their ramifications, they would indeed reduce it to a system both simple and sublime.
When we rise from the survey of a single language, remembering how much confusion it is supposed to involve, to survey the vast number and variety of languages and dialects that are spoken by the inhabitants of the globe, it would seem as if the earth were indeed a Babel of confused and contradictory tongues; yet this system reduces them all to order: and by the
* See note A at the end of this vol.