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process of this activity, and concerning the constitutive elements of speech. His definition of this process, in so far as language is limited to mere speaking and the totality of speech, is that it consists in “the perpetually reiterated labor of the mind to convert the articulate sound into a fit vehicle for the expression of thought.”
This labor involves two constitutive principles, of which the one is the internal aptitude for speech, and the other the external sound. It may be regarded as a species of generation, in which the inner element or thought, in order to manifest itself, has to overcome an impediment in sound. This leads us naturally to enquire, How are these two elements connected, or what is the relation between thought and sound? This Humboldt maintains to be entirely beyond our comprehension. 6. The in
separable connection between thought, the vocal organs, and • the ear, as exhibited in the act of speech, is based upon an
original and unalterable arrangement of our nature, and is not susceptible of any further explanation."* But, although the exact nature of this connection must remain a mystery to us, we may nevertheless, by a careful observation and comparison of the two elements, arrive at a certain degree of intelligence, so as to perceive at least the possibility of a close internal harmony and mutual interpenetration.
In the first place, there is manifestly, a certain elective affinity and general analogy between thought and sound. As the former, similar to a flash of lightning, or to a thrust, concentrates the entire perceptive faculty upon a point, to the momentary exclusion of everything else, so the latter bursts from the lips with an abrupt distinctness and with a certain degree of unity ; and as the former takes hold of the entire soul, so the latter possesses pre-eminently a penetrating power, capable of thrilling every nerve. “ In the sound the ear receives the impression not only of a movement, but of a real act, such as is also the thinking activity itself.” As thinkirg, in its most human relations, is an aspiration from darkness to light, from the limitation of our finite being towards the infinite, so the sound of speech flows from the depths of our breasts in an outward direction, and in its passage finds a wonderfully adapted material medium in the supplest and most easily agitated of all the elements, the air, the apparent incorporeality of which is in itself to some extent a sensuous representative of the mind." The living sound of the voice proceeds from our breast like the very breath itself
* Einleitung, pp. 42, 51, 88, 304.
of our existence, and in this way communicates the life itself from which it emanates to the sense which receives it. The production of sound for the purposes of speech is aided to no small extent by the admirable arrangement of nature exhibited in the upright posture of man, from which the rest of the animals are excluded, and which almost seems to be the result of the elevating power of speech. For the latter does not want to lose itself blunted upon the ground; it requires free passage from the lips of the speaker to the one addressed, to be accompanied by the expression of the eye and of the countenance, or as by the gestures of the hand, and thus to surround itself simultaneously with everything that characterizes man distinctively as such.*
The second and still more manifest analogy between thought and sound is found in the phenomenon of articulation. The organic concatenation and mutual dependence of parts involved in this phenomenon constitute the essence of speech, which contains nothing that might not in its turn be either a part or the whole. Articulation properly belongs to the inward operations of the mind as well as to the outward process of speech ; it contains the point of contact at which the requirements of thought and the adaptedness of sound meet each other, and it is their contact at this point that gives rise to language. The articulation of the sound, contains the thought-forming property of speech, while that of thought contains its power to convert sounds into language. As, in the process of intellection, the mind at first divides an indefinite mass of sensations into elements or parts, which it then again strives to combine into something more general, or into a whole, so the organs of speech proceed with sound, which they at once separate and unite. They thus become the executors of the articulating power of the mind, while the latter possesses the passive property of suffering itself to be converted into articulated sound. Articulation is, therefore, the connecting link between thought and sound, and it contains the possibility of speech. That this is really :80 we learn even where one of the elements is wanting in the deaf-mute, who, in virtue of this intimate connection between the process of intellection and the organs of speech, learns to decipher the thoughts of another. from the mere movement of his lips. An exact definition of the articulated sound cannot be given, except so far as its general characteristics coincide with those of the articulating activity of the
Einleitung, pp. 51, 52, 53.
mind, and every attempt at a merely physical description or analysis of it must prove a failure. The articulated sound, we know, differs widely from a confused one, and from a cry, yell, shout, or shriek, which man produces in common with other animals. But this difference is so far from giving us any positive result that we cannot even exhaust its definition by characterizing it as musically high or low, long or short, shrill or dull, hard or soft. In fact, its real nature can rather be observed than comprehended, and that only in connection with the idea of speech, which, through the medium of it generates and binds together thought and sound. Articulate sounds possess the property of eliciting ideas as soon as they reach the ear, and this because either some one of them is capable of effecting it, or because the formation of any one of them is such that it both admits and requires a number of others, homogeneous but specifically different, and capable of being referred to determinate classes, and all of them adapted to entering into necessary or arbitrary relations with each other.* They thus differ from mere animal sounds or musical notes solely in their design and in their susceptibility of significance, or, in other words, of representing thoughts. The only general formula to which we can reduce them as a class is that all articulated sounds belong to speech, and conversely.*
Mere articulation is, however, no more than the lowest and most general condition of the production of speech, and with it we have not as yet arrived at the genesis of the constituent parts of speech called words. It is true that there is no language without articulation, i.c., without the sounds expressed by letters and syllables; but it is no less true that there is something more than bare articulation, when by means of words and sentences, language becomes really the expression of thought. The word is, therefore, the point at which the articulate sound, whether it consists of one syllable or the union of several, properly becomes speech. In the word we for the first time meet with a real coincidence of the unity of sound with the unity of conception essential to the definition of speech. Words are thus the proper elements of speech, and they are to each other and to their totality what the individual is to his species and to the ensemble of the animated world around him. Finally, the word, with its varied relations, is the limit up to which lan
* Einleitung, p. 67. Werke, vol. ii., p. 244 ; vol. vi., pp. 537, 538, 545.
guage is a self-productive and distinct operation of the human intellect.*
In an analysis of the process involved in the genesis of words we have again to distinguish the intellectual and the physical or phonetic side of it. Here the process in each direction exhibits three distinct stages, which, although always blended in practice, are yet manifestly a triple operation. The mind, in taking cognizance of the different objects which strike the outward or the inner senses, seeks, in the first place to isolate them and to comprehend them each as separate and distinct,-in other words, to form conceptions. It next endeavors to seize the analogies and differences of the individual objects, and to form more general categories to which it may refer them, as, for example, those of variety, species, genus, &c. It, lastly, either perceives or constitutes certain relations, by means of which the objects or conceptions are connected, or supposed to be connected, with each other.
Precisely so in language we find the roots and radical parts of words corresponding with the conception of isolated objects, and really the expression of it, however true it may be that, in the actual nexus of discourse, they rarely, of ever, appear alone or without the sign of some more general relation to speech. The intellectual act which marks the conception of an object is accompaniend by another which refers it to a determinate category of thought or speech ; in other words, to the purely objective designation of an object is added a sort of subjective or logical rubrication, through which that designation becomes linked to one of the general categories of speech. The two operations combined give rise to a phonetically complete word, which then appears either as a noun, verb adjective, or other part of speech. But these words, again, and lastly, never appear isolated in discourse, which consist, of a complex and variously related tissue of thought. The phonetic expression of this third stadium of the process is found in the grammatical forms, as exhibited in case, number, person, word, tense, voice, comparison, &c.t.
The question here again rises, How are the two sides of the triple operation just indicated, the phonetic and the intellectual, connected with each other, or, in other words, in what relation does the sound of a word stand to its significance ? The answer is, again, that their connecting link resides in
* Einleitung, p. 76. Werke, p. 257.
Einleitung, pp. 75, 97, 122, 123.
articulatioo, but here in a higher degree or power of it than in the production of mere letters or syllables. We have already seen that the very definition and most essential nature of articulate sound involve a tendency to significance, and it is this same general tendency which in the genesis of the word results in a determinate signification. The province in which this principle shows itself most active is more especially that of the grammatical forms by means of which the words are correlated and connected in discourse.
Besides this general process of articulation, but yet as the direct consequence of it, we have to distinguish three different modes of designating objects or thoughts employed in speech, and these are the imitative, the symbolical, and the analogical. In the imitative designation the tone or note characteristic of an object is reproduced in the word, as closely as articulate sounds can be made to correspond to inarticulate ones. The two sounds are here brought into a direct conflict with each other, and this mode is on that account not exempt from a certain degree of crudity. It is almost exclusively confined to the names or the characterization of objects, and generally disappears with the advancement of a language. In the symbolical designation there is an indirect imitation of some quality which the sound and object have in common. For this purpose the objects are designated by sounds which, partly in themselves, partly in comparison with others, produce an impression on the ear similar to that which the object itself leaves on the mind; as, for example, the terms stand, steady, sturdy, stout, give us the impression of something firm, &c. This principle has exercised great power in the primitive formation of words, and its effect is even visible in those indications of more general relations which have already become known to us as grammatical forms.
In the analogical designation, finally, the words whose significations are more or less closely related are also expressed by similar sounds. There is, however, here no direct reference to the character inherent in the sounds themselves, as there is in the symbolical designation, but only to the affinity or analogy of sense. The principle is, therefore, but a secondary one, although it has likewise shown itself pre-eminently prolific of results.*
Einleitung, pp. 80-85.