Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/109

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SPEECH AND SONG.
SPEECH AND SONG.

By Sir MORELL MACKENZIE.

PART I. — SPEECH.

IN dealing with the two great forms of local utterance, it will be most convenient to take them in their historical, or at any rate their logical, order. Whatever "native wood-notes wild" our hypothetical half-human ancestor may have "warbled" by way of love-ditties before he taught himself to speak, there is no doubt that singing as an art is a later development than articulate speech, without which, indeed, song would be like a body without a soul. I will, therefore, treat of speech first; and it will clear the ground if I begin with a definition. Physiologically, speech is the power of modifying vocal sound by breaking it up into distinct elements, and molding it, if I may say so, into different forms. Speech, in this sense, is the universal faculty of which the various languages by means of which men hold converse with each other are the particular manifestations. Speech is the abstract genus, language the concrete species.

I am happy to say it does not fall within the scope of my present purpose to discuss the origin of language, a mysterious problem, on which the human brain has exercised itself so much and to so little purpose, that some years ago, I believe, the French Academy declined to receive any further communications on the subject. The origin of the voice is a different matter. The vocal function is primarily a means of expression. I see no reason for disagreeing with Darwin, when he says that "the primeval use and means of development of the voice" was as an instrument of sexual attraction. The progenitors of man, both male and female, are supposed to have made every effort to charm each other by vocal melody, or what they considered to be such, and by constant practice with that object the vocal organs became developed. Darwin seems inclined to believe that, as women have sweeter voices than men, they were the first to acquire musical powers in order to attract the other sex, by which I suppose he means that the feminine voice owes its greater sweetness to more persevering culture for purposes of flirtation. I do not know whether the ladies of the present day will own this soft impeachment, or whether they will be flattered by the suggestion that their remote ancestresses lived in a perpetual leap-year of courtship. Other emotions, however, besides the master passion of love had to be expressed; joy, anger, fear, and pain had all to find utterance, and the nervous centers excited by these various stimuli threw the whole muscular system into violent contractions, which in the