Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/749
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.
tence, "I didn't say nothing," the inevitable inference is that he has lived with the ill-taught; and further, that in his mind words and ideas answer to one another very loosely. How is it, then, that in French, notwithstanding Academic control, this use of superfluous symbols of thought, which, logically considered, actually inverts the intended meaning, has continued—has become a rule instead of a solecism? Once more, why has not the French Academy systematized the genders? No one who considers language as an instrument of thought, which is good in proportion as its special parts are definitely adjusted to special functions, can doubt that a meaningless use of genders is a defect. It is undeniable that to employ marks of gender in ways always suggesting attributes that are possessed, instead of usually suggesting attributes that are not possessed, is an improvement. Having an example of this improvement before them, why did not the Academy introduce it into French? And then—more significant question still—how, without the aid of any Academy, came the genders to be systematized in English? Mr. Arnold, and those who, in common with him, seem to believe only in agencies that have visible organizations, might, perhaps, in seeking the answer to this question, lose faith in artificial appliances and gain faith in natural processes. For, as, on asking the origin of language in general, we are reminded that its complex, marvellously-adjusted structure has been evolved without the aid or oversight of any embodied power, Academic or other, so, on asking the origin of this particular improvement in language, we find that it, too, arose naturally, not artificially. Nay, more, it resulted from one of those unregulated, anarchic states which Mr. Arnold so much dislikes. Out of the conflict of Old-English dialects, sufficiently allied to coöperate, but sufficiently different to have contradictory marks of gender, there came a disuse of meaningless genders and a survival of the genders having meaning—a change which an Academy, had one existed here in those days, would doubtless have done its best to prevent; seeing that during the transition there must have been a disregard of rules, and apparent corruption of speech, out of which no benefit could have been anticipated.
Another fact respecting the French Academy is by no means congruous with Mr. Arnold's conception of its value. The compiling of an authoritative dictionary was a fit undertaking for it. Just recalling the well-known contrast between its dilatory execution of this undertaking, and the active execution of a kindred one by Dr. Johnson, we have more especially to note the recent like contrast between the performances of the Academy and the performances of M. Littré. The Academy has long had in hand two dictionaries—the one a second edition of its original dictionary, the other an historical dictionary. The first is at letter D; and the initial number of the other, containing A—B, issued fifteen years ago, has not yet had a successor. Meanwhile, M. Littré, single-handed, has completed a dictionary which, besides doing all