Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/53

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43
THE PROBLEMS OF COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY.

ties in linguistic details may also be observed. Primitive languages abound in reduplicative words, as is shown in many words that we have adopted from them, such as cocoa, anana, agar-agar, pow-wow; and Sir John Lubbock has found from twenty to eighty times as many such reduplications in savage as in European tongues. Children are constantly using reduplications, some of which we have adopted from their baby talk; such as papa, mamma, the German amme, pupe, the French bêbê. The imitative faculty, a marked characteristic of savages and children, appears in language in the many words founded upon direct imitation or sound analogy. The child speaks of the mu-mu, the bow-wow, the tick-tack, the shu-shu, the ting-a-ling; and the large proportion of onomatopoetic words in savage tongues is well recognized. Difficulty in pronouncing certain sounds, inaccuracy of articulation, a mention of only the prominent words without definite order and connection, a mere skeletonizing of the sentence—these and the like are found both in the infancy of language and in the infant's language.[1]

The characteristics of language are often indicative of the mental traits of those who use it. The child's word sphere is at first concrete and specific, acquiring but very gradually a use of ideas and words that are generic and abstract. These are equally the limitations of the savage mind; the absence of generic and abstract words in savage tongues has been noted by various travelers. Some Brazilian tribes have "separate names for the different parts of the body, and for all the different animals and plants with which they were acquainted, but were entirely deficient in such terms as 'color,' 'tone,' 'sex,' 'genus,' 'spirit,' " etc. The language of the Veddahs (Ceylon) is said to be so primitive "that the most ordinary objects and actions of life are described by quaint paraphrases." Some of the Indian tongues have words for red oak, white oak, etc., but not for oak or for tree. Other evidence of the mental poverty is easily supplied. "The mind of the savage," says Sir John Lubbock, "like that of the child, is easily fatigued, and will then give random answers to spare himself the trouble of thought." Mr. Galton says of the Damaras that they never generalize, and "a Damara who knew the road perfectly from A to B, and again from B to C, would have no idea of a straight cut from A to C; he has no map of the country in his mind, but an infinity of local details."

The savage and childish conceptions of quantity, number, time, and space show striking similarities of limitation and de-


  1. The study of the natural language of the deaf-mutes yields important corroborations of many points. This has been ably studied by Mr. Tylor in his essays on Gesture Language, in Early History of Mankind; see especially page 54.