« VorigeDoorgaan »
But not content with the enumeration of these different links between thought and sound, Humboldt, in another passage, seeks to demonstrate an additional one in a preliminary act of the mind. In making sound the representative of thought, we introduce a connection of things the nature of which does not admit of anything like real union. This heterogeneity, therefore, not unfrequently requires a third element, in which they may meet, as it were, on common ground, and which may serve them as a connecting medium. This medium, he says, is always of a sensuous nature ; as, for example, in the words understanding and perception, in the former of which we associate an intellectual faculty, and in the latter an intellectual act, with the purely physical operations of standing, and seizing, and so in numerous other instances of the sort. It should therefore, be our aim, in all our etymological researches to trace this sensuous medium wherever we discover or suspect evidence of its existence, and thus to rise from the concrete terms of language to those radical intuitions and emotions by means of which each one of them, according to its peculiar genius, links together thought and sound in the production of its words. This principle, however, presupposes all the rest already named, and is only applicable in cases where the question turns on abstract terms the sense of which is what we usually call a secondary one. It, therefore, presides rather over the relationship than over the formation of words, and operates more like an auxiliary to the connection of sound and thought than like an original mediating energy.*
But however much all these analogies may serve to illustrate the obscure connection between thought and sound, after all it remains true that the intellectual and phonetic elements of speech are extremes that never can be reconciled completely, and that language, in spite of all the synthetic power inherent in it, will always remain a labor and a conAlict, with its irradicable heterogeneity of thought and sound on the one side and the mutual dependence of both of them on the other. Thought can as little divorce itself from speech, says Humboldt, as man can lay aside the features of his countenance. Hence the mind perpetually strives to make itself independent of the domain of speech, and this simply because the word always is a limitation of its thoughts and emotions, which it never completely ex
• Einleitung, pp. 109–111.
presses, and the nicest shades of which are often in danger of being lost or marred in the too general and more material element of sound. All that it gains or saves, however, in this struggle is always again added to the word, and this perpetual antagonism, the intellectual powers being properly alive, gives rise to an ever-increasing refinement of a language and to a greater affluence of significant expressions.*
The perfect union of thought and sound, the proper and energetic interpenetration of the phonetic and intellectual elements, constitutes the highest perfection of language, the ideal or the goal towards which it is ever tending, but which it never completely attains. The genesis of language in its most rudimentary form is an essentially synthetic process, and this process renews itself until there is a more or less complete coincidence or balance of the two elements of speech. In proportion to the success of this synthesis, language approximates the domain of art, of which the very nature demands a complete representation of the ideal in its material form. The natural result of this consummation of language is artistic beauty, and this, in its turn, always constitutes an infallible test of its inherent general perfection.t
After this brief exposition of Humboldt's views respecting the origin and constitutive elements of speech, we now proceed to add what he says concerning some additional properties connected with the existence and phenomena of language, as, for example, its organism, its form, and character.
The structure of a language is to its minutest fibres an organic one, and everything in it is based upon analogy. As the direct emanation of a both physically and intellectually organic being it partakes of the nature of everything organic, in which each part can exist only through the other and the whole is animated by one all-pervading principle This emanation, it is true, is but a gradual one, but it is nevertheless of such a nature that the first word already contains and presupposes the whole of it, and everything that belongs to the essential properties of speech is unconsciously given at once and as the direct consequence of the faculty of speech. Language may be compared to an immense web, in which each part stands in a more or less distinctly visible connection with the other, and all of them to the whole. In speaking, from whatever point we may proceed, we never touch more than a particular part of this web, but always and instinctively in such a manner as if all the remaining
* Ernleitung, p. 110.
† Einleitung, pp. 104, 108.
parts with which that one must of necessity be in harmony were present at the same time. The languages cannot be considered as mere aggregates of words; each one is a system according to which the mind links thought to sound. Each one is, lastly, also animated by a principle of organic unity. As soon as à people or a human intelligence takes in elements of speech, it must necessarily link them together into a sort of unity, although it may do so involuntarily and without becoming clearly conscious of the process, and this because, simply, we cannot conceive of the possibility either of individual thinking or of mutual comprehension without the operation of a principle like this.*
As each language constitutes on organic whole, so each is, secondly, possessed of its peculiar individual form. The effort of the mind to elevate articulate sound into an expression of thought operates in every language in a determinate, uniform, and constant manner.
The ensemble of the homogeneous and permanent, considered in its connection and systematically represented, constitutes the form of a language. This form is the complete objective representation of the individual nisus by means of which each nation succeeds in making language the expression of its emotions and its thoughts. It can, therefore, be fully comprehended only in connection with the totality of a language, although it is no less active in each and even the minutest element of it. Commencing with the very alphabet, it manifests its regulating power through etymology until it reaches the subtlest niceties of syntax, and pervades the entire organism of the language as one of its most vital principles.t
But the province of grammatical forms is not the only one demanding the attention of the linguist. There is a higher and profounder element in language, which, however difficult it may be of exact analysis, may yet become a subject of feeling and reflection. The Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin, for example, are closely allied to each other, and exhibit on many points a striking similarity of etymological and structural organization. Nevertheless, apart from even the differences of this organization, these languages are each of them possessed of a distinctive individual character. There is in the history of every language an era at which it may be said to have reached its maturity of growth, that is to say, at which its general form and structure are more or less complete. At
Einleitung, pp. 73, 85, 107, 113, 189, 338. Werke, vol. ii., p. 240; vol. iii. pp. 243, 253. Kawi-Sprache, vol. ii., p. 220.
† Einleitung, pp. 41-49.-Kawi-Sprache, vol. ii., p. 221.
this point the activity of the nation rests from the production of the language itself
, and passes on to the use of it. The people at large, the teachers of the people, the poets, historians, and, finally, the grammarians, now cultivate the language and employ it for their purposes. It is the peculiar manner in which this is done that gives rise to what we have just designated as its character. The phenomenon, however, links itself directly and intimately to the very nature of a language. The use of it produces, on the one hand, a feeling that there is something more than is directly expressed by it, and which, under its influence, the mind has to supply ; and, on the other hand, the impulse to express, nevertheless, in suitable terms, whatever affects the mind.
This feeling and this impulse, operating in conjunction, constitute the basis of the character of a language, which, to some extent, forms one of the primitive features of it, although it does not become distinctly developed until, as we have already said, it has become a more or less complete vehicle for thought. The character of a language manifests itself in a variety of ways. It may be observed in its etymological forms, in its manner of forming compounds, in the signification of its words, in its synonyms, and, lastly, in the laws which regulate the construction of its syntax. It appears, however, still more distinctly and completely in the two grand divisions of speech, in poetry and prose, in the culminating points of which language transcends its strict organic limits and passes into the domain of art. It is at this point that the philosophy of language meets on common ground with that of literature and history.*
Art. III.-1. English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century. By
W. M. THACKERAY. New York : 1853. 2. Life and Works of Jonathan Swift. By Sir WALTER SCOTT. 3. Lives of the Poets. By SAMUEL Johnson. 4. Life of Joseph Addison. By Miss Lucy AIKIN. 5. Lectures on English Literature. By HENRY REED. 6. Biography of William Congreve. By LEIGH HUNT.
The reign of Queen Anne was one of the most splendid in the annals of literature. It was the age of Addison, Pope, Swift, Steele, Congreve, Bolingbroke, Prior, Gay; in whose writings may be found all that is elegant in style, delightful in poetry, brilliant in wit, charming in humor, and beautiful in description. It was in this Augustan age that literary men began to occupy the elevated position in the world which genius and talent should always secure : Addison was appointed commissioner of appeals, secretary to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, lord of trade, and finally, under George I., one of the principal secretaries of state. Prior was gentleman of the bedchamber to King William, under-secretary of state, and ambassador to the court of France. Swift was the chief-counsellor and intimate friend of the ministers, Harley and Bolingbroke, and was raised to the dignity of dean of St. Patrick's. Steele was a commissioner of the stamp office, governor of the Royal Company of Comedians, and commissioner of forfeited estates in Scotland. Congreve was commissioner for licensing hackney coaches, and officer in the custom-house, and secretary of Jamaica.
* Enleitung, p. 195, seq.
Of all the writers that have charmed and instructed the world by their wit and genius, there is none whom we regard with such a warm, personal feeling as Addison. He was so gentle, so tender, so kind, so loving, and bore his honors so meekiy, that we love the man while we admire the writer. So many gifted men write like angels and live
. like fiends ; so many
“ Show us the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whilst, like puff’d and reckless libertines,
Themselves the primrose path of dalliance tread.” But Addison's pure and virtuous life was a true and beautiful illustration of the Christian morality which he taught in his writings. All praise is due to the man who had the moral courage to stand forth as the defender of virtue in a dissolute and impure age; who proved by his own delightful works that wit is not incompatible with decency, or humor with purity. Addison's writings give a negative answer to the interrogation of Shakespeare:
" Where is that palace, whereinto, sometimes,
Foul things intrude not ?" For they are distinguished by a singular delicacy of sentiment and purity of language, when the contrary was the prevailing sin of the literature.of his time. Addison looked upon mankind not with the devilish hatred of Swift, the sarcastic
of Pope, nor the laughing eyes of Steele, but with the sad, loving eyes, of an angel who wept at, while