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I have afterwards to offer. But as the natural connection can, upon any system, affect only a small part of the fabric of Language; the connection between words and ideas may, in general, be considered as arbitrary and conventional, owing to the agreement of men among themselves; the clear proof of which is, that different nations have different Languages, or a different set of articulate sounds, which they have chosen for communicating their ideas.
This artificial method of communicating thought we now behold carried to the highest perfection. Language is become a vehicle by which the most delicate and refined emotions of one mind can be transmitted, or, if we may so speak, transfused into another. Not only are names given to all objects around us, by which means an easy and speedy intercourse is carried on for providing the necessaries of life, but all the relations and differences among these objects are minutely marked, the, invisible sentiments of the mind are described, the most abstract notions and conceptions are rendered intel-, ligible; and all the ideas which science can discover, or imagination create, are known by their proper names. Nay, Language has been carried so far, as to be made an instrument of the most refined luxury. Not resting in mere perspicuity, we require ornament also; not satisfied with having the conceptions of others made known to us, we make a farther demand, to have them so decked and adorned as to entertain our fancy; and this demand, it is found very possible to gratify. In this state we now find Language. In this state it has been found among many nations for some thousand years. The object
is become familiar; and, like the expanse of the firmament, and other great objects, which we are accustomed to behold, we behold it without wonder.
But carry your thoughts back to the first dawn of Language among men. Reflect upon the feeble beginnings from which it must have arisen, and upon the many and great obstacles which it must have encountered in its progress; and you will find reason for the highest astonishment on viewing the height which it has now attained. We admire several of the inventions of art; we plume ourselves on some discoveries which have been made in latter ages, serving to advance knowledge, and to render life comfortable; we speak of them as the boast of human
But certainly no invention is entitled to any sach degree of admiration as that of Language; which, too, must have been the product of the first and rudest ages, if indeed it can be considered as a human invention at all.
Think of the circumstances of mankind when Language began to be formed. They were a wandering scattered race; no society among them except families; and the family society too very imperfect, as their method of living by hunting or pasturage must have separated them frequently from one another. In this situation, when so much divided, and their intercourse so rare, how could any one set of sounds, or words, be generally agreed on as the signs of their ideas : Supposing that a few, whom chance or necessity threw together, agreed by some means upon certain signs, yet by what authority could these be propagated among other tribes or families, so as to spread and grow up into' a Language? One would think, that, in order to any Language fixing and
extending itself, men must have been previously gathered together in considerable numbers ; Society must have been already far advanced; and yet, on the other hand, there seems to have been an absolute necessity for Speech, previous to the formation of Society. For, by what bond could any multitude of men be kept together, or be made to join in the prosecution of any common interest, until once, by the intervention of Speech, they could communicate their wants and intentions to one another ? So that, either how Society could form itself previously to Language, or how words could rise into a Language previously to Society formed, seem to be points attended with equal difficulty. And when we consider farther, that curious analogy which prevails in the construction of almost all Languages, and that deep and subtile logic on which they are founded, difficulties increase so much upon us, on all hands, that there seems to be no small reason for referring the first origin of all Language to Divine teaching or inspiration.
But supposing Language to have a Divine original, we cannot, however, suppose, that a perfect system of it was all at once given to man. It is much more natural to think, that God taught our first parents only such Language as suited their present occasions ; leaving them, as he did in other things, to enlarge and improve it as their future necessities should require. Consequently, those first rudiments of Speech must have been poor and narrow; and we are at full liberty to enquire in what manner, and by what steps, Language advanced to the state in which we now, find it. The history which I am to give of this progress, will suggest seve
ral things, both curious in themselves, and useful in our future disquisitions.
If we should suppose a period before any words were invented or known, it is clear, that men could have no other method of communicating to others what they felt, than by the cries of passion, accompanied with such motions and gestures as were farther expressive of passion. For these are the only signs which nature teaches all men, and which are understood by all. One who saw another going into some place where he himself had been frightened or exposed to danger, and who sought to warn his neighbour of the danger, could contrive no other way of doing so, than by uttering those cries, and making those gestures, which are the signs of fear; just as two men, at this day, would endeavour to make themselves be understood by each other, who should be thrown together on a desolate island, ignorant of each other's Language. Those exclamations, therefore, which by Grammarians are called interjections, uttered in a strong and passionate manner, were, beyond doubt, the first elements or beginnings of Speech
When more enlarged communications became necessary, and names began to be assigned to objects, in what manner can we suppose men to have proceeded in this assignation of names, or invention of words ? Undoubtedly, by imitating, as much as they could, the nature of the object which they named, by the sound of the name which they gave to it. As a Painter, who would represent grass, must employ a green colour; so, in the beginnings of Language, one giving a name to any thing harsh or boisterous, would of course employ a harsh or boisterous sound. He could not do otherwise, if he meant to excite in the hearer the idea of that thing which he sought to name. To
To suppose words invented, or names given to things, in a manner purely arbitrary, without any ground or reason, is to suppose an effect without a cause. There must have always been some motive which led to the assignation of one name rather than another; and we can conceive no motive which would more generally operate upon men in their first efforts towards Language, than a desire to paint, by Speech, the objects which they named, in a manner more or less complete, according as the vocal organs had it in their power to effect this imitation.
Wherever objects were to be named, in which sound, noise, or motion, were concerned, the imitation by words was abundantly 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 made; and to form its name accordingly. Thus, in all Languages, we find a multitude of words that are evidently constructed upon this principle. A certain bird is termed 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 buz, and fall. ing timber to crash; when a streain is said to flow, and hail to rattle, the analogy between the word and the thing signified is plainly discernible.
In the names of objects which address the sight only, where neither noise nor motion are concerned, and still more in the terms appropriated to moral ideas, this analogy appears to fail. Many learned
' men, however, have been of opinion, that though, in