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Origin and Progress of Language.

given to things, without any ground or reason, is to suppose an effect without a cause. There must always have been some motive which led to one name, rather than another; and we can suppose no motive, which would more generally operate upon men in their first efforts toward language, than a desire to paint by speech the objects which they named in a manner more or less complete, according as it was in the power of the human voice to effect this imitation.

Wherever objects were to be named, in which sound, noise, or motion was concerned, the imitation by words was sufficiently obvious. Nothing was more natural than to imitate by the sound of the voice the quality of the sound or noise which any external object produced; and to form its name accordingly. Thus in all languages we discover a multitude of words, which are evidently constructed on this principle. A certain bird is called the Cuckoo, from the sound which it emits. When one sort of wind is said to whistle, and another to roar; when a serpent is said to hiss; a fly to buzz, and falling timber to crash; when a stream is said to flow, and hail to rattle; the resemblance between the word and the thing signified is plainly discernible. But in the names of objects which address the sight only, where neither noise nor motion is concerned; and still more in terms appropriated to moral ideas, this analogy appears to fail. Yet many learned men have imagined, that, though in such cases it becomes more obscure, it is altogether lost; and that in the radical words of all languages there may be traced some degree of correspondence with the objects signified.

Origin and Progress of Language.

This principle however of a natural relation between words and objects, can be applied to language only in its most simple and early state. Though in every tongue some remains of it may be traced, it were utterly in vain to search for it through the whole construction of any modern language. As terms increase in every nation, and the vast fields of language is filled up, words by a thousand fanciful and irregular methods of derivation and composition deviate widely from the primitive character of their roots, and lose all resemblance in sound of the things signified This is the present state of language. Words, as we now use them, taken in general, may be considered as symbols, not imitations; as arbitrary or instituted, not natural signs of ideas. But there can be no doubt, that language, the nearer we approach to its rise among men, will be found to partake more of a natural expression.

Interjections, it has been shown, or passionate exclamations, were the elements of speech. Men laboured to communicate their feelings to each other by those expressive cries and gestures which nature taught them. After words, or names of objects began to be invented, this mode of speaking by natural signs could not be all at once disused. For language in its infancy must have been extremely barren; and there certainly was a period among all rude nations, when conversation was carried on by a very few words, intermixed with many exclamations and earnest gestures. The small stock of words which men then possessed, rendered those helps entirely necessary for explaining their conceptions; and rude uncultivated individuals, not having always rea

Origin and Progress of Language.

dy even the few words which they know, would naturally labour to make themselves understood by varying their tones of voice, and by accompanying their tones with the most expressive gesticulations.

To this mode of speaking, necessity gave rise. But we must observe that, after this necessity had in a great degree ceased, by language becoming in process of time more extensive and copious, the ancient manner of speech still subsisted among many nations; and, what had arisen from necessity, continued to be used for ornament. In the Greek and Roman languages, a musical and gesticulating pronunciation was retained in a very high degree. Without attending to this we shall be at a loss in understanding several passages of the Classics, which relate to the public speaking, and theatrical entertainments of the ancients. Our modera pronunciation would have seemed to them a lifeless monotony. The declamation of their orators and the pronunciation of their actors upon the stage, approached to the nature of recitative in music; was capable of being marked by notes, and supported by instruments; as several learned men have proved.

With regard to gesture, the case was parallel; for strong tones and animated gestures always go together. The action both of orators and players in Greece and Rome was far more vehement than that to which we are accustomed. To us, Roscius would appear a madman. Gesture was of such consequence on the ancient stage, that there is reason for believing that on some occasions the speaking and the acting were divided; which, according to our ideas, would form a strange ex

Origin and Progress of Language.

hibition. One player spoke the words in the proper tones, while another expressed the corresponding motions and gestures. Cicero tells us it was a contest between him and Roscius, whether he could express a sentiment in a greater variety of phrases, or Roscius in a greater variety of intelligible significant gestures. At last gesture engrossed the stage entirely; for under the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, the favourite entertainment of the public, was the Pantomine, which was carried on by gesticulation only. The people were moved, and wept at it as much as at tragedies; and the passion for it became so violent, that laws were made for restraining the senators from studying the pantomine art. Now, though in declamations and theatrical exhibitions, both tone and gesture were carried much farther than in common discourse; yet public speaking of any kind must in every country bear some proportion to the manner which is used in conversation; and such public entertainments could never be relished by a nation whose tones and gestures in discourse were as languid as ours.

The early language of men being entirely composed of words descriptive of sensible objects, became of necessity extremely metaphorical. For to signify any desire or passion, or any act or feeling of the mind, they had no fixed expression which was appropriated to that purpose; but were obliged to paint the emotion or passion, which they felt, by alluding to those sensible objects which had most connexion with it, and which could render it in some degree visible to others.


Origin and Progress of Language.

But it was not necessity alone, that gave rise to this pictured style. In the infancy of all societies, fear and surprise, wonder and astonishment, are the most frequent passions of men.— Their language will necessarily be affected by this character of their minds. They will be disposed to paint every thing in the strongest colours. Even the manner, in which the first tribes of men uttered their words, had considerable influence on their style. Wherever strong exclamations, tones, and gestures are connected with conversation, the imagination is always more exercised ; a greater effort of fancy and passion is excited. Thus the fancy, being kept awake and rendered more sprightly by this mode of utterance, operates upon style, and gives it additional life and spirit.

As one proof among many, which might be produced, of the truth of these observations, we shall transcribe a speech from Colden's History of the Five Indian Nations, which was delivered by their Chiefs, when entering on a treaty of peace with us in the following language. "We are happy in having buried under ground the red axe, that has so often been dyed in the blood of our brethren. Now in this fort we inter the axe, and plant the tree of peace. We plant a tree whose top will reach the sun; and its branches spread abroad so that it shall be seen afar off. May its growth never be stifled and choked; but may it shade both your country and ours with its leaves! Let us make fast its roots, and extend them to the utmost of your colonies. If the French should come, to shake this tree, we should know it by the motion of its roots reaching into

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